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Farm Business Start-Up Checklist and Resource Guide for Northeast Florida1

Kevin Athearn and Jennifer Johns2

Introduction

This document lists steps for starting a farm business in northeast Florida, along with resources and contact information to assist with completing each step. The checklist is a concise guide for new farmers to navigate business start-up, including developing a business plan, securing land, obtaining financing, and complying with legal requirements. Although many of the steps in the checklist apply to farms in any location, other steps and requirements are specific to the state, county, or municipality where the farm is located. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides a new farmers website (https://newfarmers.usda.gov/) and a checklist for new farms (https://newfarmers.usda.gov/sites/default/files/checklist_3.pdf) that are broadly applicable. The Florida Direct Marketing Handbook (Treadwell et al. 2018) is a printed guide that provides detailed information for small farm businesses and direct marketing in Florida. This document summarizes start-up steps and identifies resources and contact information specific to northeast Florida.

Listed resources are available on the Internet. Electronic links are embedded in each resource listed, and URLs are provided in the References section. These resources are intended as a sample of materials that may be helpful. The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) has not reviewed all listed resources for accuracy or completeness.

Telephone numbers are provided for several local contacts in northeast Florida. Table 1 lists county government telephone numbers. Table 2 lists USDA service center telephone numbers. Table 3 lists telephone numbers for UF/IFAS Extension, the Small Business Development Center, and Farm Credit offices in northeast Florida.

UF/IFAS Extension offers classes, workshops, and field days on various agricultural topics relevant for beginning farmers. Check your county Extension office website for upcoming events in your county. Other northeast and statewide events are listed on the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center – Suwannee Valley website (http://svaec.ifas.ufl.edu/), the Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises website (http://smallfarms.ifas.ufl.edu/), and the UF/IFAS Extension Calendar Events website (http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/events/).

Figure 1. 
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Business Planning

Business planning involves assessing your situation, setting goals, and developing a plan to achieve those goals. A comprehensive business plan includes a mission statement, marketing plan, operations plan, human resource plan, and financial plan.

  • Assess your situation and goals

Resources:

Frequently Asked Questions for Small Business Start-Ups (Cothran et al. 2015)

Setting Personal, Family, and Business Goals for Business Success (Hofstrand 2007)

(Hughes 2010)

Building a Sustainable Business, Task One and Two (SARE 2003)

How to STARTUP Your Own Business workshop (SBDC)

  • Form ideas and conduct market research or a feasibility study

Resources:

Keys to Successfully Choosing Enterprises that Suit Your Small Farm (Hochmuth et al. 2013)

Idea Assessment and Business Development Process (Hofstrand 2009)

What is a Feasibility Study? (Hofstrand & Holz 2009a)

Feasibility Study Outline (Hofstrand & Holz 2009b)

Conducting Market Research (Holz-Clause 2010)

Estimating Market Potential Check-List (Wolfe 2006)

  • Develop a strategy and a business plan

Resources:

Primer for Developing a Farm Business Plan (Evans 2008)

Strategic Business Planning (NFCS 2008d)

Building a Sustainable Business, Task Four (SARE 2003)

  • Write a mission statement

Resources:

Vision and Mission Statements (Hofstrand 2016)

Building a Sustainable Business, Task Three (SARE 2003)

  • Write a marketing plan

Resources:

Eight Steps to Developing a Simple Marketing Plan (Evans & Ballen 2015)

An Overview of Small Farm Direct Marketing (Swisher 2016)

Fruit and Vegetable Marketing for Small-Scale and Part-Time Growers (Dunn et al. 2009)

FDACS Division of Marketing and Development website

Building a Sustainable Business, Task Four (SARE 2003)

  • Write an operations plan

Resources:

Building a Sustainable Business, Task Four (SARE 2003)

Food Safety on the Farm: An Overview of Good Agricultural Practices (Schneider et al. 2011)

UF/IFAS Extension workshops

  • Write a human resource plan

Resources:

Labor Management (Bray et al. 2002)

Principles for Structuring Small Businesses and Farms (Dobbins & Ehmke 2005)

Employment Regulations Affecting Florida Farm Employers & Workers (Roka et al. 2017)

Building a Sustainable Business, Task Four (SARE 2003)

  • Write a financial plan

Resources:

Using Enterprise Budgets in Farm Financial Planning (Doye & Sahs)

Farm Financial Statements (Edwards 2013)

Twelve Steps to Cash Flow Budgeting (Edwards 2014)

Preparing Agricultural Financial Statements (NFCS 2008c)

Risk Management Planning (NFCS 2011)

Building a Sustainable Business, Task Four (SARE 2003)

Land Access

A farm business requires secure access to land that is suitable for farming and that satisfies the requirements of the business plan. Steps to acquiring land may include identifying land requirements, considering different land tenure options, finding available land, assessing the suitability of a parcel, and preparing to secure land through lease, purchase, gift, or inheritance.

  • Identify your land requirements

Resources:

Acquiring Land to Farm: Where Do I Start? (Land for Good 2012)

Toolbox for Farm Seekers (Land for Good)

  • Consider land tenure options

Resources:

Finding Land to Farm: Six Ways to Secure Farmland (Johnson et al. 2009)

Access to Land (Farmland Information Center)

  • Find land for sale or lease

Resources:

Florida FarmFinder

Lands of America

Land and Farm

Land Lease Exchange

Find a Land Trust (Land Trust Alliance)

  • Assess the suitability of land

    • Determine zoning category and restrictions (see Table 1 for telephone numbers).

Resources:

The Dream of Living in the Country: A Land Buying Checklist (NFCS 2008e)

Farm Rental Assessment Checklist (Davis & Waterman 2010)

  • Prepare to secure land through lease, purchase, or transfer

Resources:

Toolbox for Leasing Farmland (Land for Good)

Toolbox for Farm Seekers (Land for Good)

Planning the Future of Your Farm (Virginia Cooperative Extension)

Financing & Insurance

A large capital investment may be needed to obtain land and equipment and establish a farm. Steps to financing a farm include assessing your financial position and needs, identifying financing options and funding sources, preparing materials for potential funders, considering insurance needs and options, and considering cost-share and other government farm programs.

  • Assess your financial position and needs

Resources:

Twelve Steps to Cash Flow Budgeting (Edwards 2014)

How Lending Decisions Are Made (NFCS 2008b)

Preparing Agricultural Financial Statements (NFCS 2008c)

The Farmer’s Guide to Agricultural Credit (Willoughby & Paynter 2015)

Building a Sustainable Business, Task Two (SARE 2003)

  • Identify financing options and funding sources

Resources:

Financing Agriculture: The Business Borrower-Lender Relationship (NFCS 2008a)

Financing Small-scale and Part-time Farms (Stokes et al. 2005)

Building a Sustainable Business, pp. 160-163 (SARE 2003)

Financing Agricultural Businesses (USDA)

Loans for Your Farm or Ranch (USDA)

Your Guide to FSA Farm Loans (USDA)

Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Loans (USDA)

Service Center Locator (USDA)

Loans & Grants (U.S. SBA)

Farm Credit of Florida

Ag America Lending

  • Prepare materials for potential funders

Resources:

How to Finance a Small Farm (Klonsky 2012)

    • Example for SBA loan:

Loan Application Checklist (U.S. SBA)

  • Consider your insurance needs and options

Resources:

Agricultural Business Insurance (Kime et al. 2004)

Product Liability Insurance (Kime et al. 2017)

Insurance Coverage Options for Fresh Produce Growers (Rejesus & Dunlap 2009)

Risk Management, New Farmers (USDA)

Risk Management Agency (USDA)

Crop and Livestock Insurance (USDA)

  • Consider cost-share and other government farm programs

Resources:

Cost Share Programs for Florida’s Ag Producers & Landowners (Mylavarapu et al. 2014)

District Cost-Share Funding (SJRWMD), 407-215-1450

Agricultural Cost Share Program & Permits (SRWMD), 386-362-1001

Water Management Districts (FDEP), 850-245-2118

Office of Ag Water Policy (FDACS), 850-617-1700

Service Center Locator (USDA)

FSA Florida State Office (USDA), 352-379-4500

NRCS Florida Area 2 Employee Directory (USDA), 386-755-5100

Business Registration, Licenses, & Taxes

Like any business, a farm needs to choose a business structure, comply with state and federal laws regarding business registration and tax filing, and comply with local business requirements. Farm businesses may qualify for certain exemptions at the state, county, or city level.

  • Choose a business structure

Resources:

Types of Business Entities/Structures (FDOS)

Building a Sustainable Business, pp. 158-159 (SARE 2003)

Business Structures (U.S. IRS)

Choose Your Business Structure (U.S. SBA)

Farm-Related Permits & Regulatory Compliance

Various laws, regulations, and permitting requirements apply to farm businesses. Several information resources on these legal issues are listed below.

  • Check zoning restrictions with county or city zoning office (see Table 1).

  • Obtain water well permit and other environmental resource use permits

Agencies:

Permitting, St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD)

Agricultural Cost Share Program & Permits (SRWMD), 386-362-1001

Florida’s Water Permitting Portal (FDEP)

Office of Ag Water Policy (FDACS), 850-617-1700

  • Obtain building permits if applicable; check with your county or city government for permit requirements (see Table 1).

  • Review laws and regulations pertaining to agricultural workers, transportation, and farm safety

Resources:

Labor and Farm Safety (USDA)

Cultivating Compliance (U.S. DOL)

Farm Labor Program (FDBPR)

Employment Regulations Affecting Florida Farm Employers & Workers (Roka et al. 2017)

Resources:

Food Safety on the Farm: An Overview of Good Agricultural Practices (Schneider et al. 2011)

Food Safety Modernization Act (U.S. FDA)

How to Start a Food Business (U.S. FDA)

Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA)

Food Establishment Inspections (FDACS)

Cottage Foods (FDACS)

Limited Poultry and Egg Operations (FDACS)

  • Review other applicable laws

Resources:

Handbook of Florida Agricultural Laws (Olexa et al. 2014)

Statutory Exemptions & Transportation Laws for Agriculture (FFB 2016)

Summary

This document outlines several steps involved with starting a farm business and lists resources to assist a beginning farmer in northeast Florida. It may not cover all steps or issues facing a business startup, especially if nonfarm business enterprises are involved. The reader is encouraged to seek additional information from a local Extension office, government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, financial advisors, and legal experts as needed.

Acknowledgments

The authors are grateful for funding support from a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant awarded by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The authors also would like to thank John Hall, Roger Ward, Mark Yarick, and two anonymous reviewers for reviewing a draft and for helpful suggestions that improved this document.

References

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Bray, D. R., D. W. Webb, and J. E. Umphrey. 2002. Labor Management. DS80. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ds110

Cothran, H., A. Wysocki, D. Mulkey, D. Farnsworth, and J. L. Clark. 2015. . FE571. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fe571

Davis, M., and B. Waterman. 2010. Farm Rental Assessment Checklist. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont. http://www.uvm.edu/newfarmer/land/checklist.pdf

Dobbins, C., and C. Ehmke. 2005. Principles for Structuring Small Businesses and Farms. Purdue University Extension Document EC-729. Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN. https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/ec/ec-729.pdf

Doye, D., and R. Sahs. Undated. Using Enterprise Budgets in Farm Financial Planning. Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK. http://pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-1658/

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Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). Limited Poultry and Egg Farm Operation Permit Requirements. FDACS, Tallahassee, FL http://www.freshfromflorida.com/content/download/64357/1523661/Limited_Poultry_and_Egg_Operation_Requirements.pdf

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). Office of Agricultural Water Policy website. FDACS, Tallahassee, FL. https://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Agricultural-Water-Policy

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). Pesticide Applicator Licenses website. FDACS, Tallahassee, FL. http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Business-Services/Pesticide-Licensing/Pesticide-Applicator-Licenses

Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation (FDBPR). Farm Labor Program website. FDBPR, Tallahassee, FL. http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/reg/farmlabor.html

Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). Florida’s Water Permitting Portal website. Tallahassee, FL. https://floridadep.gov/water-policy/water-policy/content/water-management-districts

Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). Water Management Districts website. Tallahassee, FL. https://floridadep.gov/water-policy/water-policy/content/water-management-districts

Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FDHSMV). How do I obtain my Commercial Driver License (CDL)? website. FDHSMV, Tallahassee, FL. http://www.flhsmv.gov/ddl/cdl.html

Florida Department of Revenue (FDOR). Registration and Account Maintenance website. FDOR, Tallahassee, FL. http://floridarevenue.com/taxes/eservices/Pages/registration.aspx

Florida Department of Revenue (FDOR). Start-up Kit for New Business Owners website. FDOR, Tallahassee, FL. http://floridarevenue.com/taxes/businesses/Pages/newbusiness_startup.aspx

Florida Department of State (FDOS), Division of Corporations. Florida Fictitious Name Registration website. FDOS, Tallahassee, FL. http://dos.myflorida.com/sunbiz/start-business/efile/fl-fictitious-name-registration/

Florida Department of State (FDOS), Division of Corporations. Florida Profit Corporations website. FDOS, Tallahassee, FL. http://dos.myflorida.com/sunbiz/start-business/efile/fl-profit-corporation/

Florida Department of State (FDOS), Division of Corporations. Florida Limited Liability Company website. FDOS, Tallahassee, FL. http://dos.myflorida.com/sunbiz/start-business/efile/fl-llc/

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U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Business Structures website. USDA, Washington, DC. https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/business-structures

U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Business Taxes website. USDA, Washington, DC. https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/business-taxes

U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Employer ID Numbers website. USDA, Washington, DC. https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/employer-id-numbers-eins

U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Choose Your Business Structure website. USDA, Washington, DC. https://www.sba.gov/starting-business/choose-your-business-structure

U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Loans & Grants website. USDA, Washington, DC. https://www.sba.gov/loans-grants/see-what-sba-offers/sba-loan-programs

U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Loan Application Checklist website. USDA, Washington, DC. https://www.sba.gov/loans-grants/see-what-sba-offers/sba-loan-programs/general-small-business-loans-7a/7a-loan-application-checklist

Virginia Cooperative Extension. Planning the Future of Your Farm: A Workbook Supporting Farm Transfer Decisions. https://pubs.ext.vt.edu/446/446-610/446-610.html

Willoughby, J., and B. Paynter. 2015. The Farmer’s Guide to Agricultural Credit, Second Edition. Pittsboro, NC: Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI). https://rafiusa.org/blog/the-farmers-guide-to-agricultural-credit/

Wolfe, K. 2006. Estimating Market Potential Check-List. University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development Report 06-08, University of Georgia, Athens, GA. http://athenaeum.libs.uga.edu/bitstream/handle/10724/18679/CR-06-08.pdf?sequence=1

Tables

Table 1. 

County Government Telephone Numbers

County

Property Appraiser

Tax Collector

Building or Zoning

Alachua

(352) 374-5230

(352) 374-5236

(352) 374-5243

Baker

(904) 259-3191

(904) 259-6880

(904) 259-2403

Bradford

(904) 966-6292

(904) 966-6240

(904) 966-6223

Citrus

(352) 564-7130

(352) 341-6514

(352) 527-5310

Clay

(904) 284-6305

(904) 269-6320

(904) 269-6307

Columbia

(386) 758-1083

(386) 758-1077

(386) 758-1008

Dixie

(352) 498-1212

(352) 498-1213

(352) 498-1236

Duval

(904) 630-2011

(904) 630-1916

(904) 630-1100

Gilchrist

(352) 463-3190

(352) 463-3178

(352) 463-3173

Hamilton

(386) 792-2791

(386) 792-1284

(386) 792-1060

Lafayette

(386) 294-1991

(386) 294-1961

(386) 294-3611

Levy

(352) 486-5222

(352) 486-5174

(352) 486-5200

Madison

(850) 973-6133

(850) 973-6136

(850) 973-6785

Nassau

(904) 491-7304

(904) 491-7400

(904) 530-6250

Suwannee

(386) 362-1385

(386) 362-2816

(386) 364-3407

Taylor

(850) 838-3511

(850) 838-3517

(850) 838-3500

Union

(386) 496-3431

(386) 496-3331

(386) 496-2676

Table 2. 

Local USDA Telephone Numbers

County

Farm Service Agency

NRCS

Rural Development

Alachua

(352) 376-7414

(352) 376-7414

(352) 732-7534

Baker

(904) 266-0088

(904) 266-0088

(386) 719-5590

Bradford

(352) 376-7414

(352) 376-7414

(386) 719-5590

Citrus

(352) 793-2651

(352) 732-7534

(352) 732-7534

Clay

(386) 328-5051

(386) 328-5051

(386) 719-5590

Columbia

(386) 752-8447

(386) 752-8447

(386) 719-5590

Dixie

(352) 463-2358

(352) 486-2672

(352) 732-7534

Duval

(904) 266-0088

(904) 266-0088

(386) 719-5590

Gilchrist

(352) 463-2358

(352) 486-2672

(352) 732-7534

Hamilton

(386) 362-2681

(386) 362-2681

(386) 719-5590

Lafayette

(386) 362-2681

(386) 294-1851

(386) 719-5590

Levy

(352) 463-2358

(352) 486-2672

(352) 732-7534

Madison

(850) 973-2205

(850) 973-2205

(386) 719-5590

Nassau

(904) 266-0088

(904) 266-0088

(386) 719-5590

Suwannee

(386) 362-2681

(386) 362-2681

(386) 719-5590

Taylor

(850) 973-2205

(386) 294-1851

(386) 719-5590

Union

(386) 752-8447

(352) 376-7414

(386) 719-5590

Table 3. 

Other Telephone Numbers for Assistance with Farm Business Start-Up

County

UF/IFAS Extension Offices

Florida SBDC Offices

Farm Credit of Florida

Alachua

(352) 955-2402

(352) 334-7230

(386) 462-4201

Baker

(904) 259-3520

(904) 620-2476

(386) 462-4201

Bradford

(904) 966-6299

(352) 622-8763

(386) 462-4201

Citrus

(352) 527-5700

(352) 622-8763

n/a

Clay

(904) 284-6355

(904) 239-0722

(386) 328-2744

Columbia

(386) 752-5384

(386) 362-1782

(386) 362-2588

Dixie

(352) 498-1237

(386) 362-1782

(352) 463-2376

Duval

(904) 255-7450

(904) 620-2476

(386) 328-2744

Gilchrist

(352) 463-3174

(386) 362-1782

(352) 463-2376

Hamilton

(386) 792-1276

(386) 362-1782

(386) 362-2588

Lafayette

(386) 294-1279

(386) 362-1782

(386) 362-2588

Levy

(352) 486-5131

(352) 622-8763

(352) 463-2376

Madison

(850) 973-4138

(386) 362-1782

n/a

Nassau

(904) 530-6353

(904) 491-7347

(386) 328-2744

Suwannee

(386) 362-2771

(386) 362-1782

(386) 362-2588

Taylor

(850) 838-3508

(850) 599-3407

n/a

Union

(386) 496-2321

(352) 622-8763

386-462-4201

Footnotes

1.

This document is FE1042, one of a series of the Food and Resource Economics Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 2018. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu for the currently supported version of this publication.

2.

Kevin Athearn, UF/IFAS Extension agent, UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center; and Jennifer Johns, graduate student, Food and Resource Economics Department; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.