Refine Your Business Plan

Pumpkins and squash gathered for sale

When applying for a loan, grant, or incubator farm you'll often need to provide a farm business plan. Communicate with the organization and ask what they’re looking for in a business plan, this can vary by organization. Many programs have staff and templates to guide you through the process.  Farm Service Agency, the loan branch of USDA, looks for realistic numbers and projections whereas an incubator program will want additional information around production practices. Adapt your farm business plan to meet the needs of the organization you’re applying to. Internal and external business plans will have similarities, but tailor each to the outcome you’re looking for.


Here’s what you need to know when applying for various programs: 

USDA Farm Service Agency  

FSA application asks for projected annual and expenses for crops and livestock. Beginning farmers often don’t have their own numbers to use, so market research will be needed to come up with realistic numbers. You can find this information by doing market research like talking with farmers growing similar crops.

FSA microloan is the most common loan for small scale farmers and ranchers: FSA microloan application

Stuart Butsch shares about FSA programs in this short (3 minute) video: FSA video for Oregon small-scale farmers and ranchers

Northwest Farm Credit Services 

Northwest Farm Credit Services (NWFCS)  is a financial cooperative providing financing and related services to farmers and ranchers in Oregon.

“As far as how much information people need to start the process of applying for a loan….it could simply be a conversation.  I would much rather have conversations early and help someone down the right path if it would be helpful in their quest”.  

“I don’t have any strict requirements when it comes to completing business plans.  I will often include that business plans are never really complete, they are always a work in progress as the operation forms and grows. Most importantly, I try to make a business plan less scary. Realistically, it is simply putting the thoughts that someone has about their operation down on a piece of paper.  I try to build confidence that they really already know most of the answers to the questions in a business plan, it’s just simply organizing those pieces accordingly.”  Andrea Kraehmer, Northwest Farm Credit Services.  

Northwest Farm Credit Services provides interested applicants with a business plan outline and the Strategic Business Planning handout.Strategic Business Planning handout 


Headwaters Farm Incubator Program

Headwaters Farm Incubator Program is designed to assist in the development of new farmers. The program involves leasing out sections of EMSWCD’s Headwaters Farm to motivated, experienced individuals who will use it as a launching pad for their own farming endeavors. A farm business plan and an application are both required for this program, they are looking for both financial projections and narrative on farm practices in the application.  

Headwaters Farm Business Template

Headwaters Farm Incubator Application