“BFI is an incredible opportunity for any farmer who is considering starting or has recently started a farming business. The program embodies all different aspects and scales of agriculture, and it is such an amazing way to learn about how important farmers from all walks of life and regions are to our communities.”
–Olivia Soller, Class of 2019
National Farmers Union's Beginning Farmer Institute (BFI) is a free, year-long training program intended to improve the health of your farm or ranch business. We aim to bring together participants from diverse backgrounds around shared learning objectives, including:
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 filing your tax return.
Begin using your Balance Sheet as a management tool to make decisions about your business.
Establish or improve your processes for calculating cost of production and cost of sales.
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 responsible labor practices for managing family, contractors, apprentices, and volunteers.
Understand applicable laws governing wages, working hours, Worker’s Compensation, and payroll taxes.
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.
Develop or improve your farm or ranch business plan.
Develop questions for your insurance provider about getting coverage for your farm or ranch.
The 2022 BFI application is available below in web-based and printable format. We accept applications in either format. Please only submit your application in one format. We do not accept applications submitted as email attachments.
Completed web-based applications must be submitted no later than 11:59 pm ET on December 1st, 2021. For your application to be considered complete, all required attachments must be uploaded in the designated fields prior to submission. See application for more information.
Printed applications must be postmarked no later than December 1st, 2021 and sent to:
National Farmers Union
Attn: Beginning Farmer Program
20 F St NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20001
A team of Farmers Union staff and leadership and program alumni will review each application. All applications will be kept confidential. You will be notified of your admission status by March 1, 2022.
Questions? Email Charlie Michel at [email protected].
Participants must attend all programing in its entirety. Three trainings will be hosted virtually on Zoom and one session will be hosted in-person in St. Louis, Missouri. Each virtual training will last a total of four hours spread over two days. The in-person training will be hosted over the course of one weekend and will include a farm tour, shared meals, and social activities. Participants making satisfactory progress will receive financial support to attend to their state or regional Farmers Union Convention and the National Farmers Union Anniversary Convention at the conclusion of the program. See application for more information.
We expect each BFI graduate to seek opportunities to mentor peers in their area, hold a local board position, or pursue other community leadership opportunities. NFU provides ongoing outreach and support to participants after the program concludes.
NFU will cover most costs associated with your participation in the Beginning Farmer Institute, including travel, lodging, and most meals during in-person programming. Participants are entitled to additional benefits intended to support their progress towards the program objectives, including:
Farm Commons Producer Membership. Ready-made legal knowledge at your fingertips via interactive and on-demand workshop series, resource libraries, and community forums.
Direct technical assistance. Between sessions, participants will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with content-area experts including accountants, insurance agents, and food safety educators.
Farmers Union Membership. Benefits range from local networking and advocacy opportunities to discounts for farm apparel, equipment, and seeds.
Fearless Farm Finances. We provide a free copy of this essential resource to all participants and facilitate an optional book club with other members of the BFI cohort.
Travel stipends and scholarships. Stipends are provided to those wishing to attend their state or regional Farmers Union convention. Additionally, all participants meeting program requirements receive a scholarship to the National Farmers Union Anniversary Convention.
• Must be 18 years or older.
• Applicants should be currently farming or planning on starting within the next year.
• Owning an operation is not required.
• Operations of any type and size are eligible to apply.
• Open to residents of the contiguous United States, Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico.
BFI 2020-21 Cohort