…may not be our sexiest Field School workshop, but getting a handle on your farm’s finances is crucial for the long term sustainability of your farm.

A small farm is a small business! While financial planning may seem daunting, knowing what resources are available to help you is half the battle. Luckily, our speakers from this workshop gave us some good guidance about where to start and who to call.

Dana York, Green Earth Connections/Grand Oak Farm, discussed the 2009 study from Cornell, “Evaluating Market Channel Options for Small-Scale Fruit and Vegetable Producers” with a PowerPoint presentation that goes over wholesale vs. direct marketing, cost management, and developing a business plan.

Adam Hopkins, UT Extension, presented on the importance of financial planning and budgeting for farmers.  He also ran us through a hands on exercise about how to calculate the costs and potential income (or lack of income) from growing three different crops. You can find his PowerPoint here and the exercise worksheet here. Adam is the county extension agent for most of East Tennessee, so he is a great, FREE resource that you can call on to help you with financial planning.

Jessie Campbell, TN Dept of Agriculture, shared an awesome cost-share program TDA offers for farmers called TAEP.  Please visit that link to learn more about the application process and program requirements.  They also have a new program, Agriculture Enterprise Fund, that will be useful for anyone looking to start a value added product business.  Jessie can be reached at jessie.campbell@tn.gov or 931-619-6368.

Brandon Shipley, Farm Service Agency, discussed how FSA provides farmers with a number of services, chiefly being a loan agency, especially in cases when farmers cannot get credit from a traditional bank.  Beginning farmers should all check out their low interest Microloan Program!

Allen Hawk, Rural Development.  RD mainly provides services to rural businesses, but does have two grant programs for farmers.  These are the REAP grant (renewable energy projects for farms) and the Value Added Producer grant.  We helped a farmer in Roan Mountain apply for the VAP grant to do market research on starting a hard cider company.

Finally, Roy Settle from First Bank & Trust couldn’t be there on Thursday.  Roy is on the board of ARC&D, and used to run the whole show, but he now works as an agricultural loan agent for FB&T.  If you ever feel the need to work with a bank for a loan for land or equipment, please give him a call: 423-433-7116, rsettle@firstbank.com

Godspeed, friends.