Financial and Business Education for Beginning Farms

If you are thinking about raising money for a new or expanding agricultural business, a good investment of your time is writing your business plan.

What you’re aiming for is a clear and compelling document that spells out what you will be producing, the key members of your business team, who your customers will be, how much you will sell and at what price. The process of developing all that information will help you hone in on a truly feasible business idea. It will also help you assess how much capital you need, and the various options for raising it — investments from family and friends, borrowing from a lender and sometimes grants.

class in sessionThis winter, the UVM New Farmer Project and Women’s Agricultural Network will be offering several courses to help beginning farmers with business planning. Our six-session Building a Sustainable Business class will guide participants through the process of developing a business plan. The course is most useful for people who have at least one year of product/financial records, but is also relevant for people who are starting up a new farm-based enterprise. “Do the homework,” one graduate advises, “and you’ll come out of the course with a business plan.”

It will be offered simultaneously in Berlin, Brattleboro, Middlebury, St. Albans and St. Johnsbury on Tuesdays starting December 6.

Our Introduction to Ag Financial Management class is designed for any farmer who is interested in improving their financial management skills. Participants will learn about and develop their own balance sheets, income statements and

cash flow statements. They’ll also learn the basics of budgeting and skills for anticipating the financial needs of their farm.

“The the time flew by, and I’ve never been so excited to work on spreadsheets,” said one participan

t from the 2010 session. The instructors, another participant noted, “did a great job of keeping things simple. It was good to spend the day focusing on an aspect of my business that often gets bumped to the bottom of

my to-do list.”

In March, we’ll be offering an online session of Taking Stock. Geared to people with five or more years of experience, Taking Stock focuses on the kinds of issues that emerge after businesses have been running for a while, and on preparing you for some common challenges that arise during the mid-life of a business. Topics include: instituting policies & procedures; cash management; and refining owner/manager roles.

Financial aid is available for all classes.

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About Beth Holtzman

Beth Holtzman is outreach and education coordinator for the UVM New Farmer Project the Women's Agricultural Network.
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