Growing Places Early Registration Deadline

Growing Places for new and aspiring farmers!

Are you considering starting an agriculture or natural resource based business, but are unsure where to start. Growing Places is designed to help participants develop a comprehensive goal statement which will help in the business planning process, explore and evaluate opportunities and resources and develop familiarity with state and federal agriculture programs

Each class addresses a different aspect of business development and is taught by experts who will give depth to the discussion with hands-on exercises. Guest speakers share their experiences with the group to offer a real-life perspective. Visit Growing Places class information to learn more, or contact Heidi Krantz 802-223-2389 x 203

Fall 2014 In Person Session

Dates: Thursday s, 5:30- 8:30 pm October 2, 9, 1 6 & 23 in Berlin, VT
Early registration: $1 1 0; Deadline: September 1 4, 201 4
Standard registration: $1 50; Deadline: September 25, 201 5.
Registrations received after S eptember 25 will be subject to a $50 late fee.
Winter 2015 Online Session

Dates: Jan 1 2- Feb 9, 201 4
Early registration: $1 1 0; Deadline: Dec. 1 , 201 4
Standard registration: $1 50; Deadline: Dec. 21 , 201 4.
Registrations received after Dec. 21 will be subject to a $50 late fee.

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Farm Insurance

New Picture-jpgThinking about farm insurance is often an easy topic to put to the side and try to remember to think about sometime next week. The main purpose of any insurance is to protection from a catastrophic financial loss.

Risk and insurance are pretty closely tied together. Insurance is one way to handle some of the different risks that we face. There are 5 different ways to handle risk.

  1. Control the risk. Wearing seatbelts is a way to control the risk of physical injury in a car crash.
  2. Avoid the risk. I am tempted to not grow sweet corn in my garden next year because of skunks and coons.
  3. Retain the risk. Even though there is a possibility of a chimney fire, I continue to burn wood, but I burn dry wood, clean the chimney each summer, and keep a fire extinguisher nearby.
  4. Transfer the risk. This is insurance, we pay them to handle our risk.
  5. Ignore the risk. Commonly done, but often not the best strategy.

After a loss, there may be several costs. The cost to replace the damaged property. The loss of use of the property which results in extra expense and lost income. There may be lawsuits from injured people. Then there could be medical bills, or even disability or death.

Farmowners insurance policies are a combination of several different kinds of insurance: personal, commercial, property, loss of use, income and extra expense, and liability. The cost of a policy depends on location, value of buildings, equipment- production and processing, size of operation, liability limits for injuries on the farm and product liability, and more.

Homeowners insurance policies do not cover selling products. Some companies offer ‘small farm’ policies that may provide the coverage that you need.

How much insurance do you need? Talking with an insurance agent can give you an idea of what risks your business faces. If you are selling food products to the public, you need to have some product liability insurance. Unless you have nothing to lose. Which slot machine do you play? $10? $5? $1? 25¢?

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Get Your Farm Off to the Right Start

Are you considering starting an agriculture or natural resource-based business, but are unsure where to start?

IMG_1246The New Farmer Project’s Growing Places course will help you explore an evaluate your options and learn about opportunities and resources. Offered both in-person (in October) and online (January 2015), Growing Places introduces participants to the goal-setting, resource assessment, marketing, and financial basics that are at the heart of successful and sustainable farm businesses.

“Growing Places gave me a good foundation for my business,” says one 2013 graduate, “and a lot of inspiration about how to think outside the box.” Continue reading

Posted in New Farmer Events, Resources for Beginning Farmers

End of Summer Business Review: Are You Using SMART Goals?

Listening to the crickets and watching the meteor showers reminds me that summer is winding down. It also is a trigger to dig out the business plan and take a look at where I am as the end of the “third quarter” approaches. Why not grab your business plan and join me to reflect on the business goals we wrote for the year – goals that are SMART:

Weather Vane with Dollar SignSpecific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.

Continue reading

Posted in Goals

What does the 2012 Census of Agriculture have to do with me?

It’s no secret that farming can be an isolating and difficult vocation at certain times. A farmer’s typical daily duties might include keeping up with the weeds, caring for sick animals, moving chickens, fulfilling wholesale orders, rushing to the farmers’ market, and responding to e-mails and phone calls. My partner is a poultry farmer and processor, I work to support beginning farmers, and both of us feel like we cannot seem to keep up with the vast amounts of farming information we receive every day on topics as diverse as best management practices, marketing strategies, new loans available, etc. With the release of the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture, organizations have been going crazy gleaning trends from the data and trying to understand what it means for farmers and for people whose work supports farmers, like mine. I recently discovered one resource that I’d particularly recommend if you are a data geek like me and you need a bit of a break from the day-to-day details of farm life. It is also important as a business owner, or aspiring business owner, to understand the trends happening in your work sector. Whether you are writing the marketing section of a business plan and need to outline the competition and marketplace that already exists, or you are thinking about your current businesses potential for growth in New England, this data can be helpful. Sometimes this information can be daunting to track down and summarize, but this particular resource, the Vermont Food System Atlas, does it all for you!

The Farm to Plate Network, an initiative of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, is developing a 10-year strategic plan to strengthen Vermont’s food system, with goals such as increasing profitability of farms, increasing consumption of Vermont-produced food, and increasing production and sales of local food for all markets. Their Vermont Food System Atlas is a website developed by the Farm to Plate Network to aggregate information relating to the food system in Vermont. The Atlas website outlines the strategic plan, lists job postings, news and announcements, events, as well as a lot of other information related to the food and farming sector in Vermont. Farm to Plate experts have taken the historical and updated 2012 census data and connected it with those goals. I am not going to explain all of their conclusions, but instead will list a few of my favorite facts and provide links to some of the charts and data that I find most interesting. When you get to a page, check out the arrows on each side of the charts to scroll through various graphs related to the goal.

  • Direct sales of food in Vermont have increased from $9,713,042 in 1997 to $27,430,000 in 2012. This is a 98.6% increase. Although direct sales of food are not necessarily local, according to Farm to Plate, direct sale statistics provide helpful proxy indicators of consumption of local food products.
  • To put it in context, direct sales are still only a small % of total food sales. They account for 3.5%
  • According to 2012 data, about 15% of all Vermont farmland is protected by an easement.
  • In 2013, 3,710 acres of farmland were conserved, down from 2012’s 4,460 acres that were conserved.
  • New England accounts for .72% or $2.8 billion of all agricultural products sold in this country.
  • The total value of all agricultural sales in Vermont were $776 million, up from $746 million in 2007.
  • Maine and Vermont were the only states to see increases in agricultural sales.
  • Milk from cows accounts for about 65% of the total agricultural sales in Vermont, leaving about $267 million for all other sectors.
  • The number of farms in Vermont has increased 5% since 2007 and 26% since 1997.
  • The number of dairy farms in Vermont has decreased about 49% since 1997.
  • In 1997 there were 159 vegetable farms, 351 in 2012, and 252 in 2007.
  • In Vermont, 15.1% of farms accounted for 90.5% of agricultural sales.
  • There are 1,760 farms in Vermont that make less than $1000 in sales.
  • Farms making between $1,000 and $2,499 in sales account for less than 1% of total sales but 11.4% of farms.


Try to think about what this means for your farm and for the Vermont food system as a whole? If 15.1% of farms make 90.5% of agricultural sales what does that say? If 11.4% of farms split less then 1% of sales, what does that mean for those farmers?

If you want to scroll through all the goals and the associated data, visit and hit “Get Connected: Click Here” in the upper right hand corner, and then choose “Food System Data” on the left hand side of the screen. This will bring you to an overall summary of the findings; if  you click one of the live links for the goals, you will get connected to specific charts related to that goal.



Posted in Facts & Figures, Farm labor and human resources, Financial Mgmt, Land access, Marketing, production information, Resources for Beginning Farmers, Scaling up, The USDA Farm Bill