Operating Your Farm

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  1. Deciding What to Produce
  2. Registrations
  3. Memberships
  4. We’re Here to Help!

What can I produce on my farm that will make the most money?

Extension staff get asked this a lot. Unfortunately, it’s a question they can’t answer for you. There are farmers making and losing money in nearly every commodity produced in Nova Scotia. That’s because profitability has as much to do with your skill as a producer and business person as your product. Rather than asking other people what will make money, try asking yourself these questions:

1.What do you like?

It doesn’t matter how much money you can make with a particular product if producing it makes you miserable, or just isn’t your thing. In other words, don’t get into pastured pork if you can’t stand pigs!

2.What do people want to buy?

You need to know your crop or livestock will sell even before you start producing it. Think about your target market, whether wholesalers or end consumers – what do they want that you could provide? It might be a particular product, a steady supply of that product, or the experience of buying that product from the person who produced it. The most important consideration when you are trying to decide what to produce is your ability to sell it.

3.What is your particular farm suited for?

The soil type, climate and topography of your land will give you clues about what you can produce. Much of Nova Scotia is best suited for pasture production. However, there are several parts of the province where a wide variety of crops can be grown without damaging the land. Special micro-climates are needed for certain crop species, like tree fruits, grapes, and other warmer-season crops.

4.What are the farms around you producing?

If a lot of farms in your area are producing a particular product, it’s a good indication that your farm could produce it too. If there is a strong market and room for more sellers, doing what everyone else is doing might be the best strategy. But if the market for existing products is saturated or if profit margins are low, you might want to try something completely different.

Start by looking at what farmers elsewhere are doing successfully. There is more risk associated with trying something new because you don’t know how well your farm will produce the new product or whether it will be accepted by consumers. However, if you are successful the rewards of developing a new product can be significant.

Whether you’re leaning towards a tried-and-true farm product or something more innovative, keep the questions above in mind. Test your new idea out on paper first to determine how much it will cost to produce, how much you think you can sell it for per unit, and how many units you will be able to produce and sell. Be conservative in your estimates. If it looks like you’ll make a good return, consider starting on a small scale to see how things work out with both production and marketing.

Plan well and start small. If your idea doesn’t work out learn from your mistakes and try again. Ultimately, there’s no magic formula for success in farming beyond good planning and hard work. Opportunities do exist if you’re willing to look for them.

The Next Big Thing?

There are some new crops that have received a lot of buzz lately. Each person will need to do their own evaluation about whether or not these crops are suitable and profitable for your farm, but here is some preliminary information to help you start with that evaluation.

There are several registrations you may want to consider or that may be required to operate your farm business.

It depends somewhat on how your business is structured, i.e. are you known to the Canada Revenue Agency as a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a corporation or a cooperative? (For more information on business structures, see Resource Kit for NS Farmers #15 PDF.)

If you choose to incorporate your farm business, the registrations described below are not sufficient. After reserving your business name (Step 1 below), you must obtain a Certificate of Incorporation, which is usually done by a lawyer. For more information, visit: https://novascotia.ca/snsmr/paal/rjs/paal265.asp

If you are a partnership, you do not need a lawyer to draw up a partnership agreement. However, if you have a business partner who is not your spouse, it is highly recommended that you have a partnership agreement to ensure clear communication and fairness in the sharing of profits, equity and debt, and to plan for the future dissolution of the partnership.

Once you have determined your business structure, take the following steps (in this order):

1. Register with the Nova Scotia Registry of Joint Stocks. This registration is mandatory for all businesses operating in Nova Scotia with the following exceptions:

  • New Brunswick corporations and NB partnerships/business names registered in New Brunswick
  • Individuals or partners using only their personal names without a descriptive element or attachment such as ‘and Associates’
  • Partnerships whose sole purpose is farming or fishing

Therefore, this registration is not mandatory for farm businesses that are sole proprietorships or partnerships. However, this process reserves your business name so you may still want to register.

There is a fee, which varies based on your business structure.

2. Obtain a Business Number by registering with the Canada Revenue Agency. There is no fee to obtain this. When you go through the business registration process, you will be asked to register for applicable program accounts. The main program accounts are: HST; payroll; import/export; and corporate income tax.

If you are a corporation or cooperative, this step is mandatory.

If you are a sole proprietorship or partnership, this step is not mandatory if your business grosses less than $30,000 per annum, you do not have any employees, and you are not importing or exporting any goods.

Farmers can claim the HST back on all farm-related purchases, including infrastructure and property. Therefore, it is a good idea to obtain a business number and an HST program account before purchasing a farm property so that you can claim the HST on the purchase. Most farms in Nova Scotia have HST program accounts. (See the Resource Kit for NS Farmers for more information on HST PDF and Payroll PDF.)

3. The next step is Farm Registration. Farm registration is a voluntary program, but recommended. You should register your farm if:

There is a fee associated with farm registration, which varies based on your gross farm income. (For more information on farm registration, see Resource Kit for NS Farmers #11 PDF.)

4. Access to Business Nova Scotia is an online express service that streamlines access to information on doing business in Nova Scotia and applying for permits and licenses that apply to your business. You do not need to use the Access to Business portal if you prefer to apply for permits and services in person or by mail.

The table below summarizes the registration requirements for sole proprietorships, partnerships, corporations, and cooperatives. Note: this information applies to farm businesses only.

Farm Business Structure Sole Proprietorship Partnership Corporation Cooperative
Registry of Joint Stocks Voluntary (applies if you want to reserve a business name) Mandatory
CRA Business Registration Mandatory (hired employees or gross income >$30,000) Mandatory
Farm Registration Recommended (access certain programs)
Access to Business Nova Scotia Voluntary (convenient online tool)

Workshops You May Find Helpful

Small Farm Expo
Stay tuned for the 2016 date and location!

Click here for a look at last year's lineup

More upcoming workshops >>

Helpful Guides

PDF Guide for Beginning Farmers

Anytime you move to a new place, it takes time to build connections with new friends, neighbours, businesses, and other organizations in your new community.

This transition period can be even more difficult for those who are moving to a rural area for the first time.

While rural areas can be pristine and quiet, some former urban dwellers may also experience rural life as lonely and isolating. Successful farms are never run in isolation and it’s important to make contacts in your community. Your new community may seem quiet, but you’ll probably soon find that there is a lot going on. There are many organizations that you might consider joining, including:

  • 4-H a nationwide program for young people, ages nine to 21. The goal of the 4-H program is to develop community leaders and responsible citizens through a variety of technical and life skills training, unique networking opportunities and a hands-on learning experience. In Nova Scotia, there are more than 90 4-H clubs that function with the help of adult volunteers and the support of the Department of Agriculture’s regional staff.
  • The Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, the membership-based voice of Nova Scotia’s farmers. There are 13 county-based sub-chapters; ask your local Agricultural Resource Coordinator to put you in touch with the County Federation nearest you to start connecting with your farmer neighbours!
  • Commodity organizations, which represent and provide regulation and support to producers of each of Nova Scotia’s agricultural products, such as the Maple Producers Association of Nova Scotia and Chicken Farmers of Nova Scotia. Joining the appropriate commodity association can be an invaluable source of production information and networking support. Most commodity organizations have annual conferences, workshops, and farm tours, and also communicate with their members about the latest farming practices through websites, newsletters, and magazines.
  • The Nova Scotia Young Farmers Forum, a peer support group for farmers aged 18-40. The NSYFF has a Facebook group and arranges social events and workshops throughout the year.
  • THINKFARM provides support to informal new farmer clubs around the province. If you’re interested in joining a new farmer club in your area, or in starting one, get in touch with your local Agricultural Resource Coordinator.

You will also certainly benefit from having a mentor, or more than one mentor. Read this article PDF to learn more about the benefits of mentors, and how to find one.

Workshops You May Find Helpful

Small Farm Expo
Stay tuned for the 2016 date and location!

Click here for a look at last year's lineup

More upcoming workshops >>

Helpful Guides

PDF Guide for Beginning Farmers

Once you’ve obtained a farm property and are ready to start farming, the Department of Agriculture is still here to help you.

Do you have farm production questions? Contact our colleagues at Perennia.

Do you have questions about operating a farm business? Check out one of our fact sheets or call one of our Business Development Officers.

Looking for funding for farm development projects? Call your nearest Agricultural Resource Coordinator to discuss your plans.

Workshops You May Find Helpful

Small Farm Expo
Stay tuned for the 2016 date and location!

Click here for a look at last year's lineup

More upcoming workshops >>

Helpful Guides

PDF Guide for Beginning Farmers

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