After months of preparation, we finally got to meet our newest batch of Field School students on Thursday, November 8th at our first session, Visioning Your Farm! Our main speaker for the night was Tamara McNaughton, of TNT Farm N Greenhouse, who shared about her experiences learning to farm and starting her own operation in Meadowview, Virginia.
As you are starting to vision your own farm, it’s important that you take the time to make some personal and financial assessments. Knowing where you are starting from will help you come up with a plan to get you where you want your farm to be in the next 3-5 years. Here are some of the assessments we give our students:
- Personal Traits and Knowledge & Skills Assessments: We use worksheets from the New England Small Farm Institute which you can explore on their website. Basically, these assess your gumption for starting a new farm business and the skills you have or need to acquire in order to succeed.
- Completing a Household Budget: Can you get by with $15,000 in profits or do you need to put 4 kids through college and pay for healthcare and retirement? Knowing what your monthly and yearly expense needs are will help you determine what to farm and if you and/or your partner need to maintain off-farm incomes.
- Time Assessment: You may have big dreams, but if you already have a job and a family, do you have time to start a new farm? By assessing your weekly and monthly time commitments, you can make sure you have the time to give your new business the effort it needs to succeed.
The next step in visioning your farm is to find a business plan template that suits your needs. In preparing for this year’s Field School session, Program Coordinator Lexy Close read close to a dozen different farm business planning templates. Everything from 1 page outlines to 300 page textbooks, so there is something out there for everyone. Some of Lexy’s recommendations:
- Farm Credit 1 Page Business Plan
- ATTRA Business Plan Tipsheet
- EPA’s Urban Farm Business Plan Handbook
- Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture’s textbook on Building a Sustainable Business
- AgPlan online business planning tools
Our final suggestion for visioning your farm is to research, research, research! You can learn more about current farming and local food trends by attending winter farming conferences, reading trade magazines, signing up for notifications for Extension workshops, and talking with other farmers.
At our next session, we’ll be discussing all the legal details that go into starting a new farm business, including getting your farm number, taxes, insurance, getting a business license, finding an accountant, and more! Stay tuned!