As a farm business adviser it can be very difficult to reconcile a few concepts that impact farm viability and innovation. This Canadian article on fast-food giants converting to cage free eggs does a great job discussing the market and production dynamics at play in food systems:
The Cage Free Trend… (the Globe and Mail)
Back to farm planning topics. First: consumer is king, queen and treasurer, right? Farmers must provide a product to the market that is in demand. Second: price-maker or price taker? Farms that innovate have the opportunity to set prices, at least for a while, until the rest of the suppliers catch up.
Consider an innovation that dazzles the consumer population. But remember that the 98% of the US population that are non-farmers are guided by factors reasonably detached from practical farm matters or even science based attributes. Add a few mega corporations, advocacy groups and social media into the mix and now you have a marketplace. Check out this article: The Cage Free Trend… (the Globe and Mail)
UVM Extension Across the Fence ran a television show on maple business and the Maple Benchmark project. Maple Benchmark: Across the Fence 4/12/16
Reports are coming in that 2016 is a record crop season. Producers are excited about yields but wary about possible price shifts if supply outpaces demand. Tune in to see what maple business owners consider to ensure this great Vermont product reaches your kitchen table.
Click this link to watch the segment: Maple Benchmark: Across the Fence 4/12/16
Fifteen years ago the buzz word was “direct sales”, seven years ago it was “scaling-up” and in 2016 the call is to build brands. Many small farms and their owners can’t manage the “scale-up”. Can food systems entrepreneurs harness the cumulative capacity of small farms to supply market demands both near and far?
Check out this recent article originally published in Local Banquet (Spring 2016)
and featured through the Vermont Farm to Plate website: Building Brands in a Small Farm Food System
A store with empty shelf space in 2011 for locally produced eggs
Farm managers have dug into winter business planning projects and by now everyone has identified key questions that require analysis, research and technical information. UVM Farm Viability has filtered the internet universe and posted the best resources to assist managers with legal decisions, market research and financial records. Visit our Resource Library and open up the Legal Toolbox, Market Toolbox and archive of online recordings.
Apply for Dairy Improvement Grants up to $20,000
With grant funds donated by Commonwealth Dairy and in partnership with the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery, Dairy Farmers of America, Housing Vermont, and the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation, the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program provides grants of up to $20,000 to Vermont dairy farmer members of the St. Albans Co-op and Dairy Farmers of America to make farm improvements. This round of funding is for projects that will improve water quality and help farmers meet new water quality regulations. Application deadline is February 12th
Click this link for application information: Dairy Improvement Grants
Forest Business Educator – Extension
The University of Vermont Extension seeks a Forest Business Outreach Educator to deliver business coaching and business management education to owners and managers of forest products-based businesses. The position will also contribute to forest and agricultural research projects. A Bachelor’s Degree in forestry, natural resources, business administration or a closely related field and at least 3 years of experience in economic development, forest products or business management education is required. The University is especially interested in candidates who can contribute to the diversity of the institution and deliver high quality outreach programs to a broad audience.
The position is located in Rutland or Berlin Vermont. This is a grant funded position. For further information and to apply with electronic application, resume, cover letter and one page written biography visit our website at this link: https://www.uvmjobs.com/postings/18409
What is the best reason you have heard about why money does or does not matter on a farm? Send in a comment.
When I entered the field of farm business education and consulting I entered with the naïve perception that farm managers would seek out strategies that improved the financial performance of the farm and themselves. Time and time again my presumption has proved wrong. Here is a list of reasons that money does not matter in farming. They all come from very reasonable farmers, for better or worse.
• If we were profitable, we’d have to pay taxes to the government.
• How could we continue to market products at these high prices if people knew we were actually making money?
• It’s not about money…. It’s about the land and the animals.
• The economy/marketplace does not yet recognize the true value of what we do as farmers, someday it will.
• If we made more money, my spouse would expect to go on a vacation. I don’t much want to leave the farm and the prospect of sitting on a beach with nothing to do does not appeal much either.
• Our daughter will get better financial aid packages for college if we show a loss.
• To make more money we’d have to make some tough decisions and probably makes some changes too.
• We won’t have any retirement savings when we get old, but our kids will take care of us just like we did for our parents.
• Farming is risky business and if you can’t handle that you should get out. I heard Extension has some jobs open.
• When you work this hard and don’t make hardly anything you can’t think about money. It’s too depressing.
5 Reasons Money Does Matter in Farming
• When we decided to get a loan for a reverse osmosis unit for our maple operation it cut my labor in half and saved our marriage.
• I’d like to put profits into a retirement account so that I don’t have to parcel out the farm to support me when I am no longer able to work.
• My kids have seen us struggle to make a living on this farm for 30 years… they have no interest in farming or this place.
• I want to pay people well here and provide them year round work with good benefits.
• Making these money decisions is hard work, I figure that the only way I can justify paying myself well is by doing hard work. When I catch myself doing the things in the greenhouse I remember I can pay someone $10 per hour to do them. I need to focus on other things in order to earn my $30 per hour.
UVM Extension Farm Viability is offering several programs for farm managers this winter.
2016 Budget Clinics : UVM Extension Farm Business educators are available to work one-on-one with farmers on their finances. Bring your financial statements, records and questions for this 1 to 1 ½ hour private meeting at a local Extension office. Click the link above for the schedule.
Ag Biz Pro : Ag Biz Pro is the program of choice for farm managers who wish to continue working with an individual adviser after completing a grant funded Farm Viability business planning project. Participants work directly with a farm business adviser within a flexible curriculum to address priority issues facing the business through the preparation of financial statements, financial analysis and overall business analysis.
Farm Viability Business Planning and Dairy Management Teams : Individualized and team based business planning programs run throughout the entire year. Click the program summary above and download applications from our “Application Materials” page.
Newsflash… laying hens need to be comfortable and productive to maintain profitability at any scale of operation. Click this fact sheet from UMaine Extension: Bulletin #2217, Winter Care of Your Laying Hens
Some of the most important management factors to keep your winter flock laying include:
- Making the transition to supplemental lighting to maintain 15-16 hours of light per day (1 60 watt incandescent/13 watt compact fluorescent will cover 200 square feet). If have not done this by December, you are behind schedule. Specialists advise to increase light by 15-20 min each week to phase light back in slowly.
- Keeping birds warm. Production declines below 55 d F. Managers should consider supplemental heat and also make sure the ration supplies enough energy and nutrition to compensate for the birds biological transitions with colder conditions.
- Never forget clean (NOT FROZEN) water, draft reductions, proper ventilation and sanitation.
Click this fact sheet from UMaine Extension: Bulletin #2217, Winter Care of Your Laying Hens
UVM Extension, with financial support from VT Housing Conservation Board, is offering this one day “Business Basics for Loggers” workshop for Vermont loggers on two separate dates and locations:
December 7, 2015 – Chester, VT
December 8, 2015 – St. Johnsbury, VT
Workshop attendees will receive 8 Logger Education to Advance Professionalism (LEAP) credits. Click here for the full program flyer: Business Basics for Loggers