Last week I had the pleasure of bringing 3 colleagues from Ireland’s extension service around Vermont. I studied last year with James, Fintan and Kevin, financial management specialists, when I was on sabbatical study leave in Ireland.
Not surprisingly, farm financial training was one of our topics of conversation. They told me about a 3 half-day training program, ‘Cash Plan 2014.’ It is specifically for farmers who started up since the beginning of 2008 (recent entrants), dairy farmers in particular. Teagasc (an organization similar to Land Grant colleges in the US) will begin offering this course in the fall of 2014, they have 900 farmers signed up for it now.
Farmers who successfully complete the program will receive up to €1,000 (about $1,300)! The course is ‘hands-on’ with spreadsheets to be used for farm financial recording on a monthly basis for 2014, and preparing a monthly budget for 2015. The third piece of the course is to complete a workbook, My Farm, My Plan (Teagasc) that guides a farmer through the thought process of writing a business plan.
The European Union’s Dairy Marketing Quota ends in the spring of 2015. The Irish government wants more milk (for the cash that it creates), dairy farming is one of the most profitable sectors of the ag economy there, and many dairy farmers are planning expansions. The goal of ‘Cash Plan 2014’ is to teach the use of financial tools, and to get farmers thinking about a plan for their expansion.
The Vermont New Farmer Project has a 3 half-day course in February, Intro to Ag Financial Management (alas-with no big grant money to encourage people to attend). Our plan, as of July 2014, is to offer it in Feb, 2015 in Rutland and Berlin. The course focuses on the 3 basic financial statements: Balance Sheet, Cash Flow, and Income Statement, and how you can use them to manage your farm.