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Bulletin #2433, So, You Want to Farm in Maine?

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So, You Want to Farm in Maine?

Adapted from material from: Fact Sheet 1-1-2, Issued June 1981, United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Government & Public Affairs, Washington, D.C. 20250

For information about UMaine Extension programs and resources, visit extension.umaine.edu.
Find more of our publications and books at extensionpubs.umext.maine.edu.

For an interactive version of this bulletin, visit UMaine Extension’s New Farmers website.

farmer; photo by Edwin Remsberg, USDAPerhaps you have long thought about moving to a farm and wonder whether it’s really the right life for you and your family. Maybe you once lived on a farm and are thinking of going back. Maybe you’re a young person starting out and are intrigued with the possibilities of life on a farm.

The questions in this fact sheet will help you decide whether farm life is right for you. The purpose of the questionnaire is not to give you a particular “score,” but rather to cover some of the realities of farming in Maine. The questions will give you some guidance as you search for more information. They should help you find areas where you need more data.

If you can answer “yes” to most of the questions, then you probably will have a fairly good chance of success in farming. But of course you will want to gather many more facts before you proceed further.

It usually is advisable to consult several different experts, including USDA agency representatives; seed, fertilizer and implement dealers; bankers; farmer cooperative officials, and others before you commit yourself to a major action, such as buying land. In many cases, it makes much more sense to rent or lease the land you want to farm.

If you truthfully answer “no,” or “undecided,” or “don’t know” to most of the questions, then you probably shouldn’t think about moving to a farm unless you are motivated by strong personal reasons. If you are strongly motivated, you will want to prepare yourself thoroughly by getting more answers. You’ll find some suggestions on the last page about where to look or write for help.


Basic Decision Questions

  1. Have you determined whether you want to farm full-time or part-time?
    __ no __ yes __ unsure
  2. Do you plan to start farming with an established farmer, either in a partnership, in a closely held corporation, or, do you have prior experience, as a farm hand or manager-trainee?
    __ no __ yes __ unsure
  3. Do you have a plan for producing and marketing the particular commodity you are interested in?
    __ no __ yes __ unsure

If yes, has someone knowledgeable in the field of agriculture reviewed your plan?
__ no __ yes


Financial Questions

  1. Have you chosen a farm location suited to your family, and found out the rental charge per acre or how much land costs if you want to buy it?
    __ no __ yes
  2. If you want to farm full-time, can you raise sufficient capital in loans or assets, or be willing to begin part-time with less capital and investment?
    __ no __ yes __ don’t know
  3. If you have a farm picked out, do you know how much property taxes you would have to pay? Is there an agricultural infrastructure in the area? Is there interest in farmland or open space?
    __ no __ yes __ don’t know
  4. If you will be living on a retirement income, will it support you on the farm in case you make no net profits from farming?
    __ no __ yes __ don’t know
  5. If you want to do less than full-time farming, are you willing to take an extra part-time job at rural pay rates as a way to make ends meet, assuming you do not have a steady income from other sources?
    __ no __ yes __ undecided
  6. Assuming a “normal” farm year, have you made out a budget of your expected sales, farming expenses, family living expenses and net farm income, and found that you can make out all right on farm income and income from other sources? (For sample budget, contact your UMaine Extension county office.)
    __ no __ yes
  7. Have you looked ahead to when you might leave farming, and have you thought about related tax matters, such as capital gains and/or inheritance taxes?
    __ no __ yes

Personal/Management Questions

  1. Are you flexible and “tough” enough so you don’t mind taking risks with your own money?
    __ no __ yes __ unsure
  2. Are you a “self-starter”? Can you plan and do your own work on schedule?
    __ no __ yes __ unsure
  3. Are you able to get members of your family interested in working together at chores or special projects, and can you comfortably direct the work of others whose help you may need from time to time?
    __ no __ yes __ unsure
  4. Can you say you like to work with your hands and don’t mind physical work outdoors in all kinds of weather?
    __ no __ yes __ don’t know
  5. Are you looking forward to farming to get away from indoor confinement, busy offices and crowds, and city noises and smog—in exchange for other kinds of problems such as greater isolation and distance from facilities?
    __ no __ yes __ undecided
  6. Have you observed that, despite its placid image, farming is a very stressful business because the farmer is self-employed and is under pressure to keep up with the work and cope with constant changes in weather, market conditions, technology and uncertainty of income?
    __ no __ yes
  7. Are you aware farming is among the most dangerous occupations, along with mining and construction, according to the National Safety Council?
    __ no __ yes
  8. Have you thought about health insurance costs?
    __ no __ yes
  9. Are you ready for the social life of country living, which may include fewer, or different, recreational and social events than the city?
    __ no __ yes __ undecided
  10. Would you enjoy getting involved in farm community activities, and do you know about your prospective locality’s civic organizations, Extension 4-H and Homemakers’ clubs, service clubs or other groups you might find interesting?
    __ no __ yes __ don’t know
  11. Do you have mechanical ability and like doing odd jobs around your home, such as fixing faucets or a broken water pipe, doing carpentry work, painting, fixing autos or tractors?
    __ no __ yes __ undecided
  12. Are you familiar with computers and farm management recordkeeping systems?
    __ no __ yes
  13. If you plan to produce your own milk or maintain poultry or livestock, have you considered that you must be at home for the milking and/or feeding chores twice a day, seven days a week, and that it often isn’t easy to find someone to relieve you on short notice unless you have relatives close by?
    __ no __ yes
  14. Do you appreciate the crucial importance of having your market thoroughly thought out before you begin planting and or producing a perishable product? Do you plan to research the market for your proposed enterprise before you begin?
    __ no __ yes __ undecided
  15. Have you had what you feel is enough on-farm experience similar to the work on the type of farm you plan to operate?
    __ no __ yes __ undecided
  16. If you plan to raise livestock or poultry, are you aware of the proper manure handling procedures and possible runoff problems in the farming area you have in mind?
    __ no __ yes
  17. Is the farm you are planning to operate in an environmentally sensitive area (lakes, marine estuaries, aquifers) that might limit your farming practices?
    __ no __ yes
  18. Would you be able to handle the stress of replanting your major crop after a killer frost or rebuilding your herd or flock if it is “wiped out” by a disease?
    __ no __ yes

Miscellaneous Questions

  1. Have you studied the farm area (soils, environment, climate) where you plan to live and know what kind of enterprise it would best support?
    __ no __ yes
  2. Have you evaluated various types of farming to see how they match up with your family goals and capabilities?
    __ no __ yes
  3. Would you enjoy getting technical farming advice from others, and know how to get advice from specialists such as county Extension educators, entomologists, pesticide applicators, soil scientists, fertilizer experts, engineers, conservationists, and others?
    __ no __ yes __ undecided
  4. Would you enjoy shopping around to get the best price and make the best deal for fertilizer, fuels, feed, seed and equipment?
    __ no __ yes __ undecided
  5. Do you know something about market reports, and would you enjoy searching out the best markets to sell your farm products?
    __ no __ yes __ undecided
  6. Are you familiar with these agencies: USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture), FSA (Farm Service Agency), NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service), and various non-USDA agencies such as SBA (Small Business Administration)? Do you know what each might have to do with your selected or potential farm operation?
    __ no __ yes
  7. If you need help on your farm, do you think you can hire farmworkers, and do you know whether custom hiring services are available?
    __ no __ yes __ undecided
  8. If you need to hire farmworkers, are you familiar with state and federal laws concerning the safety and well-being of your employees, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Hazardous Occupations Law, Social Security Tax Law, Federal Minimum Wage Law and Workers’ Compensation Laws?
    __ no __ yes
  9. Do you know that a farm employer can be held liable for negligent acts of his or her employees and that you are liable for your negligence regarding the safety and health of your employees?
    __ no __ yes
  10. If you are going to raise livestock, are you aware of the need for, and the cost of, a good fence of the type your neighbors are likely to insist upon?
    __ no __ yes
  11. If you plan on processing food for sale, do you realize that you need your home/ kitchen inspected regularly by the Maine Department of Agriculture?
    __ no __ yes
  12. Are you familiar with Maine state laws dealing with air and water pollution, pesticide control, wetlands regulations and the “Right to Farm Law”?
    __ no __ yes
  13. Do you know that if you sell plant materials you need a license from the Department of Agriculture and are subject to inspections?
    __ no __ yes
  14. If you plan to raise livestock, do you realize you may need to develop a nutrient management plan before you begin?
    __ no __ yes

How Many “Yes” Answers?

How many “yes” answers did you score? If you answered yes on 32 or more questions, especially in the financial category, congratulations on having a moderate chance for a successful farming career.

If you checked “yes” on the questions that obviously pertain to part-time farming, and had quite a number of “yes” answers elsewhere, then perhaps you would be successful at part-time farming.

For answers to those questions where you answered “no,” “don’t know,” or unsure,” you probably need to go over this questionnaire with an experienced farmer, loan officer, a management specialist, or a county educator at your county office of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

People at those offices may be able to give you pointers to help you find more definite answers to questions and reach a sound decision on whether to try farming.

In any case, if you and your family believe you want to proceed further, you may want to study other materials that are available at your UMaine Extension county office.


Other Resources

“A Guide to Doing Business in Maine.” Available from Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, 1.800.872.3838.

County soil surveys. Available at local NRCS (National Resource Conservation Service) offices.

Contacts for farming organizations and commodity groups in Maine are available from Extension county offices.

Maine Department of Agriculture – Regulations. 207.287.3841.


Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 2008

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