Planning and Managing Your Farm Business
In any profession, the old saying “a stitch in time, saves nine” is a true friend! The most successful farmers we know have gotten themselves in the habit of ‘stitching,’ i.e. anticipating and practicing how they will solve a problem, before it ever happens. Planning and managing means taking the time to hone your agrarian skills at workshops and conferences, and making yourself develop a business plan that identifies WHY you farm, WHAT you will raise or produce and WHO will buy your products. It means finding and hiring trusted professionals to help you create and maintain production, legal and financial records. It means asking and answering your own key questions BEFORE you are suddenly overwhelmed and in awe, say, in the barn at 3:00 a.m. during lambing season.
- Farm Management – a farm is a business, and requires management tools
- New England Farm Account Book (Excel Version 2/18) – spreadsheet to help organize and track farm finances
- VT New Farmer Project – from the University of Vermont Cooperative Extension
- Maine Farmland Trust: Farmland Access
- ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture Program – ATTRA services are available to farmers, ranchers, market gardeners, Extension agents, researchers, educators, farm organizations, and others involved in agriculture, especially those who are economically disadvantaged or belong to traditionally underserved communities.
- The Organic Farmers Business Handbook – “A Complete Guide to Managing Finances, Crops, and Staff-and Making a Profit, By Richard Wiswall”
- Crop Planning for Vegetable Growers – Canadian Organic Growers
Who to Contact for Direct Assistance
- Coastal Enterprises, Inc. – CEI’s business counselors deliver business counseling and technical assistance to develop products, business and marketing plans for agricultural and food-related enterprises. CEI, also, finances loans to qualified borrowers to implement those plans.
- Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry provides technical assistance with agricultural business and market development
- Maine Small Business Development Centers provide business counseling and offer free online workshops
- University of Maine Cooperative Extension is the only entity in our state that touches every aspect of the Maine Food System
- SCORE Maine is a nonprofit organization providing educational workshops and helping small businesses get started, grow and operate effectively.
- Maine Farmland Trust – Farming for wholesale.
- MOFGA Farm Beginnings is a farmer-led program to help guide those with a strong commitment to creating a sustainable farm business achieve their goals. Designed for farmers with at least one year of production experience, this series of intensive workshops will help you to develop a whole farm plan through realistic goal setting, reflection, and assessment of your resources, skills, and markets – and gives you the business planning tools necessary to successfully implement your plan. The course was originally developed to support participants in the MOFGA Journeyperson Program but enrollment is open to any farm looking to apply whole farm planning and financial management tools to their operation.
- Starting & Running Your Own Small Farm Business by Sarah Beth Aubrey (2007), Storey Publishing, North Adams, MA , ISBN 978-1-58017-697-2
- Scaling Up Your Vegetable Farm for Regional Markets – This publication helps farmers decide if they are ready to expand their operations to serve wholesale markets or produce more for direct markets. It describes how organization and planning can help a producer meet the challenges involved in scaling up. This publication addresses important considerations such as land, labor, food safety, marketing, and insurance.