How to Start a Small Home Farming Business in North Carolina
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North Carolina features a diverse farming climate, with an average growing season of 130 days in northern mountain regions and 242 days near the coast. The greenhouse and nursery industry ranks as the top North Carolina crop, followed by vegetables such as corn, sweet potatoes and soybeans. Tobacco is also widely grown. Many North Carolina farms produce livestock such as hogs, turkeys, cattle and trout. In 2010, the North Carolina agriculture industry contributed more than $70 billion to the state economy, noted Agclassroom.org.
Establish your farming business framework. Obtain written zoning approval for your home farming business. Select a business structure with a Certified Public Accountant experienced with small farms and agricultural businesses. Consult with a commercial insurance agent about your insurance needs. Visit your city or county clerk’s office for a business license and inquire about other required permits. Ask your state Department of Revenue if sales taxes apply to your farming business.
Study North Carolina agricultural laws that influence production and marketing of many farm commodities. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services enforces laws related to the plant industry and pesticides, as well as poultry and meat inspection. Food laws may also apply to your farming operation.
Select your products and markets. In 2010, adopted an approach that differs from past large-scale farming operations. Rural-focused "Grit" magazine noted that many newer farmers grow several crops on fewer acres. These farmers cultivate non-traditional crops such as florist flowers and raise livestock such as grass-fed cattle in high demand in metropolitan areas. Select crops or livestock that should thrive on your topography and soil, and have clearly-defined regional markets.
Develop a farming business plan that provides a template for your farm’s operation. For example, state the crops or livestock you plan to produce, along with projected income and expense levels. Include a multi-year plan that includes crop rotation and expansion potential. Include marketing ideas for all products. Consult with your accountant if necessary.
Explore funding sources and programs. Study your business plan to determine the financial resources your farm requires. Consult with a farm-focused regional bank about a financing program. The United States Department of Agriculture has compiled a comprehensive resource guide that prepares new farmers for business startup. Besides funding source information, you’ll find technical assistance, networking and community program resources.
Purchase farming equipment and supplies. Your farm’s crop choices dictate the equipment and supplies you need. If you plant small amounts of specialty herbs, for example, tillers and hand gardening tools are likely sufficient. Conversely, if you cultivate several acres of vegetables, you need equipment to make the process less labor-intensive. Compile a list of needed equipment and supplies by consulting equipment dealers and visiting farm supply stores.
Cultivate your first farming crop. Study weather, soil and irrigation requirements. Plant seeds, or seedlings, according to the supplier’s instructions. Consult with your Extension Service office for expert advice and additional resources.
Based in North Carolina, Felicia Greene has written professionally since 1986. Greene edited sailing-related newsletters and designed marketing programs for the New Bern, N.C. "Sun Journal" and New Bern Habitat ReStore. She earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration from the University of Baltimore.