National Farmers Union's Beginning Farmer Institute (BFI) is a free, online, 10-week intensive program intended to improve the health of your farm or ranch business. The program is open to producers ages 18 and up and is inclusive of all operation types and scales of production.

Each cohort is selected through a competitive application process. If accepted, you will attend online seminars, network with peers, pursue independent learning activities, and receive one-on-one technical assistance. Participants who complete all the necessary requirements will be considered for an additional in-person session, which will include additional trainings, farm tours, and networking with Farmers Union leadership.

The program is structured around weekly online trainings led by experts in business management. Over the course of 10 weeks from October - December, participants will be expected to watch 30-60 minutes of video trainings each week, followed by participation in weekly, 2 hour Q&As with subject-matter experts.
Application closes July 15, 2024
Program Objectives
Business Formation
Choose or maintain the appropriate business structure for your circumstances.

Improve your process for tracking and managing assets put into your business.
Identify specific tax deductions available for your farm or ranch business.

Develop a list of questions to bring to a CPA for assistance with your tax return.
Begin using your balance sheet as a management tool

Establish or improve your processes for calculating cost of production and cost of sales.
Create or update your current month-by-month business cash flow budget.

Identify sources of operating credit, credit for asset purchase or improvement, and credit for land acquisition.
Business Planning
Develop or improve your business plan.

Identify best practices within your operation for profitability and wealth creation.
Identify responsible labor practices for managing family, contractors, apprentices, and volunteers.

Understand applicable laws governing wages, working hours, Worker's Compensation, and payroll taxes.
Determine how much farm or ranch land you can afford to purchase or lease.

Identify the steps required to create a succession plan for your operation.
Identify specific types of insurance your operation should have.

Develop a list of questions for your insurance provider about getting coverage.
Each participant will receive:

A one-year membership to Farm Commons. This membership puts ready-made legal knowledge at your fingertips through interactive and on-demand workshop series, resource libraries, and community forums.
Farmers Union membership. Participants who are not already Farmers Union members will receive a one-year membership, which offers benefits ranging from local networking and advocacy opportunities, to discounts for farm apparel, equipment, and seeds.
Direct technical assistance. Following the 10 week course participants will have the opportunity to schedule a one-on-one meeting with the instructor to ask questions about their individual situations.
Program Eligibility
• Must be 18 years or older
• Should be currently farming/ranching or planning on starting within the next year
• Operation must be for-profit (the substance of BFI is not suitable for non-profit operations)
• Must be a resident of the United States or Puerto Rico

Operations of any size and type are eligible to apply, and owning an operation is not required.
Application Process
Each applicant must submit the following:
• Application (online or print - see below)
• A current resume, no longer than one page
• One reference letter in support of your candidacy for NFU's Beginning Farmer Institute
• A 2-3 page essay (typed, double-spaced) describing your current farm or ranch operation, how you envision your operation in 5 years, and how participating in BFI will help you achieve this

Applications may be submitted online or printed and mailed to the NFU office.
A team of Farmers Union staff and leadership will review each application. All application content will be kept confidential. You will be notified of your admission status no later than Friday, August 16, 2024. Acceptance is conditional upon your submission to and NFU review of a background check, which is purposed to ensure the safety of participants during the program's in-person session.

Participants must attend all programming in its entirety, including reporting punctually and completing homework assignments prior to each weekly meeting.

Participants who complete all the necessary requirements will be considered for an additional in-person session in April, which will include additional trainings, farm tours, and networking with Farmers Union leadership.

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