What is the Certified Farm Startup Program?

Find the full CFS Program schedule here

The Community Food & Agriculture Coalition (CFAC)’s Certified Farm Startup Program (CFS) is a certification program for aspiring farmers that will utilize performance-based teaching methods to deliver the skills and tools needed to access farmland and start a farm business.

  • The Certified Farm Startup curriculum will cover many topics:
    • Basic livestock and crop farming practices
    • Innovative land lease and purchase strategies
    • New and innovative production techniques
    • Business planning
    • Financial and risk management
    • Diversification and marketing strategies

All classes and trainings are FREE and you’ll work with farmer mentors, CFAC staff, and MSU Extension staff dedicated to teaching you how to become a successful farmer. CFAC is committed to making the CFS program accessible to all aspiring farmers. For classroom curriculum, there are both in-person and online options.  For on-farm events, if a given site does not meet a trainee’s access needs, we will work together to find an alternate option. Please feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns.


What does CFS offer aspiring farmers?

  • Hands-on training designed to meet the specific needs of beginning farmers and ranchers to help in their endeavors to lead farming careers.
  • Training in diverse operation types including: vegetables, fruit, cut flowers, herbs, and livestock.
  • One-on-one training and support aimed at helping you create your own unique farm business plan.
  • Creation of a farmer resume that will help secure land lease options by showing land owners you’re confident and dedicated to running a successful farm. If you decide to post a Land Seeker listing on the Farm Link Montana site, your listing will carry a Certified Farm Startup stamp, as proof you have completed the required curriculum.
  • A diverse, inclusive network of new and experienced farmers! We’re committed to building a safe, supportive network for all trainees, free from discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, religion, veteran status, military obligations, or marital status.
  • Connection with other beginning farmers across Western Montana during farmer cohort meetings.
  • Note: Even for those not interested in running their own farm, this program will help you gain knowledge in farming practices applicable to any agriculture related field. Talk to us or your academic institution to see if this will qualify for independent study or internship credits you may need.


Certified Farm Startup FAQ: 


What are the dates and times of the workshops and field days?
To see the dates and times of the workshop, click here. You can also find a google calendar showing the dates and times of workshops, field days, and cohort meetings on the schedule page or by clicking here!

Where is the zoom link for the workshops?

The zoom link for each workshop and cohort meeting will be emailed to you before each event. Please check the email account you provided in your application. Feel free to email Mary or Nicole with questions.

Is there an option to participate if I can’t attend at those times?
The virtual workshops will be recorded, and available a few days after the original date. Field day events are in-person. Please contact us if you are not able to attend any of the in-person dates.

What do I do if I miss a Workshop, Field Day, or Cohort Meeting?
Please contact Mary or Nicole at mary@missoulacfac.org or nicole@missoulacfac.org

Will all the workshops be online?
Yes, there will be 6 online workshops. There may be additional, in-person or online cohort meetings depending on the season.

What safety measures will be in place for in-person Field Days?
CFAC asks that each participant sign a waiver of responsibility. We expect our participants to be respectful of the property and its owner, as well as the other participants attending the event.

How can I find wifi access or computer access?
There are many places to access free wifi, depending on where you are living. Bookstores and libraries, as well as coffee shops and bakeries typically allow you to access free internet, and some libraries have computers and headphones you can borrow.

Who should I contact if my computer or Zoom app aren’t working?
If you cannot get your zoom link to work, please either contact a zoom customer service representative, or one of the workshop presenters.

What if I have something specific I want to have covered during the workshop?

If you attend the workshops, you will be allowed to ask questions in the chat box during the presentation. If you are unable to attend the live workshop, please email us ahead of time so that we may address your question during the presentation. Questions can always be emailed to us at any time, before or after an event.

How can I submit a question for a Workshop speaker if I can’t attend?
Please email Mary or Nicole at CFAC before the workshop so that we may address the question during the live recording.


Program Requirements*: 

  • Live (or plan to live) in Montana during the majority of the program (program will run from March 2022 – September 2022).
  • Complete the CFS Application. Applications open November 16th, 2021! Applications close on February 15th.
  • Attend 5 virtual workshops and one in-person workshop on business and production planning. Four optional in-person field days will also occur throughout the summer (with options likely in Missoula, Ravalli, Lake, and Gallatin counties)
  • Connect with cohorts across the region and attend optional meetings/gatherings offered
  • Complete two full seasons working on a farm (this can be completed before or during your enrollment in CFS)
  • Work through online curriculum provided throughout the year to help plan out your potential farming career
  • Submit a certification completion form once you have fulfilled the above requirements

*All workshops and events can be tailored to meet your individual needs based on your direction and progress along the course. We are also happy to chat with you if you are unsure you can fulfill any of the about requirements. Email nicole@missoulacfac.org with any questions.

The program begins March 2022 and workshops will wrap up in September 2022, however, we are open to making personal adjustments for folks on alternative timelines. If you are already registered for the program, the schedule can be found here: https://www.farmlinkmontana.org/certified-farm-startup-program-workshop-schedule/



How to sign up: 

  • Apply by filling out the Certified Farm Startup Application. Applications open November, 16th 2021! 
  • Deadline to apply is February 15th, 2022.
  • Contact us with any questions about how to complete the required curriculum to catapult you into your farming career!