How to Start a Michigan Small Farm Business

by Amy Reynolds; Updated September 26, 2017
Small farms may provide a variety of products.

Agriculture in Michigan generated more than $60 billion annually in 2007-2008 and employed more than 1 million Michigan residents, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. Agriculture is a growth industry in Michigan. The state produces more than 200 commodities, second only to California in crop diversity, the USDA reports. The prerequisites for starting a small farm in Michigan depend in part on what the farm will produce. The Michigan Department of Agriculture can help with the legal requirements of starting a new business. Join a statewide farming organization to keep abreast of the latest technologies and regulations.

Items you will need

  • Acreage zoned agricultural
  • Equipment designed for your choice of product
  • Tax accountant (recommended but optional)
Step 1

Prepare a thorough business plan. It's easier to make changes in your ideas during the planning stages than it will be after you've invested in land and livestock or planting and harvesting equipment. Study the latest edition of Michigan Agricultural Statistics prepared by the USDA, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and the Michigan State University Extension Service. The study looks at every aspect of agricultural economics in Michigan. Grand Valley State University is the statewide host of the Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center, which offers business training, counseling and research to help your business succeed.

Step 2

Learn about grant and loan availability for starting and running a small farm in Michigan. Sources of financing are vital, and they need to be secured before you get into the production stage. If you have acres of grain in a field, with no way to harvest it or money to hire it harvested, you have no time left to seek financing. You incur a loss when you don't have a way to get it to market on time. The Michigan Department of Agriculture is a starting point for information on what is available for startup agricultural businesses.

Step 3
The amount of land needed varies by what, and how much, you grow or raise.

Purchase or lease enough acreage, zoned for agricultural use, to support your intended agricultural enterprise. If you plan to use land you already own, check with your local zoning commission on any land-use restrictions for your area. Check on whether there are any government restrictions on what crops can be grown on the land.

Step 4

Acquire any necessary equipment to keep livestock or harvest grain or whatever it is you need to bring your product to market. If you plan to sell produce at a farmer's market or roadside stand, learn what specific licenses are required. For example, Aquaculture or fish farming requires a facility registration and license. Each have initial fees and yearly renewal fees attached, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture.

Step 5
Tax accountants are helpful in making good business decisions.

Seek out advice from a tax accountant. Depreciation and the different options of leasing equipment have tax advantages, or disadvantages. Keep detailed records of all purchases and expenses. Specialized assistance is available for many aspects of farming and tax laws. Incentives and options change often.

Step 6
Corn and other grain seed are available from distributors or other sources.

Purchase the starting stock, seed or other items for growing and producing. Many options exist for buying poultry, cattle, swine, seed, seedlings and fish for aquaculture farming. Follow the guidelines given by the Michigan Department of Agriculture for importing any live animals or plants into Michigan. Stock bought in-state do not have the same requirements.

Tips

  • Having a written plan makes it easier to decide changes objectively. Many people are emotionally invested in the business and the land or livestock. A plan is often helpful for grants and loans.

Warnings

  • Keeping updated about regulations and laws that affect your farming business is very important. Safety precautions should be used at all times around farm equipment and livestock.

About the Author

With over 30 years of experience with animals and 20 years with gardening, Amy Reynolds has been writing professionally and publishing online since 2005. She is currently considering pursuing a degree in Web design for a new venture.

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