Farm Viability Farmer Peer-to-Peer Discussion Cohort

Are you interested in joining a Farmer Peer-to-Peer Discussion Cohort to increase basic business management skills, discuss business needs and share ideas? FREE 12-month program for qualifying farms! Cohort meets for a 4-hour session each month.

You can complete an initial pre-screening intake form here  or contact: Betsy Miller at: betsy.miller@uvm.edu to learn more, for pre-screening and to receive an application.

You must have a value-added component to your farming operation and meet a few other basic requirements, including: a) participant is a Vermont resident, b) participant has 3 years of experience working and managing farm operations and c) the farm business generated at least $15,000 of gross sales in the previous year. UVM Extension Farm Viability provides assistance referring all applicants that do not meet eligibility criteria to other programs and services available to them. Waivers from the eligibility requirements may be requested and are considered on a case-by-case basis.

UVM Extension Farm Viability offers business planning and technical assistance services to all qualifying Vermont farmers, as part of a statewide effort to improve the economic viability of Vermont agriculture. Once enrolled, all farms meet and work with a ‘lead’ farm business planner usually over a 4 – 12 month basis to produce a written business plan and/or complete other business analysis projects. In the second year, farmers who have completed a full business plan or farm transfer/succession plan are provided with ongoing technical assistance to monitor their progress in implementing their plan.

County Mayo, Ireland, Sept 2013

Registration is Open for UVM Maple Business Short Courses

UVM Extension offers two online short courses for current and prospective maple producers that begin in late October. Each course includes four classes (1.5 hours each), once per week, and teaching assignments that get participants completing real time analysis and making immediate decisions to enhance their business. Registration in now open for the Maple Business Planning and Maple Financial Planning short courses.

For more information see the course descriptions and registration information on the Events page at www.maplemanger.org. Or click the file below to view or share the informational flyer.

Maple Market Insights

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, with the Atlantic Corporation, has created an online interface that enables users to explore results from a 2020 Northeast United States consumer preferences survey.  Maple sellers can run interactive analyses of the results from over 1,500 participants at The Maple Data Dashboard to investigate the market demand for maple products.

UVM Maple business has published the summary fact sheet Maple Market Insights with key findings from the market research and the link to the interactive Maple Data Dashboard at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture website.

UVM Agricultural Business is Hiring: Online Education and Communications Coordinator

Overview: University of Vermont Extension has three projects in 2021-2022 that include online education events, project webpages and communications initiatives to disseminate project resources to target stakeholders. UVM is seeking an experienced individual capable of coordinating ongoing online educational events and developing a multi-media communications plan to expand the reach of the projects. The selected candidate will work closely with the maple extension specialist and maple business project directors, oversee 3rd party consultants and coordinate external services to implement the communications plan. This is a part time position.

View the job summary with application instructions.

Changes Coming to Our Blog

Welcome to the Agriculture Business blog, formerly Farm Viability. Our work encompasses Farm Viability but is more than just Farm Viability!

We are migrating content from the blog onto our UVM website. Some content, like many of the static resources we offer will be found on our website instead of our blog. Our blog will also be getting a facelift.

Our resources will still be accessible and we will still be posting updates on the blog about specific Ag Biz topics of importance to your farm & forest enterprises.

If there is something you are looking for that you cannot find on our new website, email us with questions.

Covid-19 Updates for Ag Businesses

Updated 5/13/20

This page is being updated regularly with resources for agricultural businesses owners operating through the current health crisis.

Vermont Policy Updates

(4/24/20) Governor Scott releases new policy to open today for nurseries, greenhouses, and garden centers, effective Monday April 27th, 2020. See Addendum 11. This announcement, effective April 27th, 2020, allows for in-person customer purchase of seeds, annuals, vegetable seedlings, perennials, herbs, shrubs, trees, and other landscaping and gardening materials from an outdoor retail operation in adherence to the guidelines outlined in Addendum 11.

(4/24/20) Vermont Farmers Markets will be allowed to reopen under the new Farmers Market Guidance released by Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM)

(4/22/20) Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). The Vermont Department of Labor is now set-up to accept unemployment claims for “self employed” business owners under PUA. PUA website for Self Employed and online application page

Micro Loan and Grant Programs: Rural VT Farmers Market Grant ($500), American Farmland Trust Grants ($1k max); VT Farm Fund (up to $10k Emergency Loans), FACT Mini-Grant ($500 for livestock and poultry)

US Small Business Administration Emergency Programs

5/4/20 : As of today (5/4) EIDL application webpage opened up today! New PPP applications are being processed. Prepare your PPP applications directly with your local bank/lender.

SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) webpage: Updated fact sheets and applications are posted below. Contact your local bank or lender for information on how to submit an application. Farms, Forest and Maple businesses are eligible for PPP.

PPP for Self Employed (sole proprietor) seeking benefit for themselves. See this article on how to calculate your previous year Schedule F “Net Earnings” from prior year.

(4/15/20) Updated Eligibility Guidelines for PPP, See page 6 for how business owners with no employees will calculate amounts. Where is says “Schedule C Line 31”, farm owners will use “Schedule F Line 34” Click Link Below

What is an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Emergency Advance? 4/22/20 “Farms” will be eligible for the EIDL program in the second relief package. We expect the SBA online application eligibility section to reflect that chance once the program re-opens.

A borrower applying for EIDL can request an advance on the loan of up to $10,000 from the Small Business Administration (SBA). See the SBA EIDL Website. Applications are made online with the SBA directly. EIDL “advance” amounts are based on $1,000 per employee, thus a business with 10 or more employees can apply for the $10k max. The actual EIDL Loan can be for up to $2M and has an interest rate of 3.75%

SBA Economic Injury Disaster Application

Small Business Owners Guide US CARES Act: See document download below (includes Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan/Grants) Note: As of 4/24/20, We have confirmation that farm businesses are eligible for the PPP SBA programs. “Farms” (ie. 100% farm production) are also eligible for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). Food processors, value-added, maple syrup producers, nursery and aquaculture are eligble for EIDL. Both these programs feauture “forgivable” portions for certain uses and do not require 100% repayment. See the CARES Act Summary below.

VT Agency of Agriculture Covid-19 Response Page: Submission form to submit your emerging business issues, newsletter sign up and resource links.

VT Agency of Commerce and Community Development Covid Updates: Covid Newsletter Sign Up, Emergency Declaration Guidance, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, Submit data on your business losses to inform agencies where support is needed

VT Emergency Management: This site contains the Essential Persons List (subject to change) and it’s relation to Emergency Child Care

Any Given Timber Harvest

by Chris Lindgren, Forest Business Educator

There must be as many ways to harvest timber as there are loggers, likely more. Every approach may not be “best,” but most are acceptable.  Each logger has a different set of equipment and a different crew with a variety of experience and skills, forest landowners have varying visions and objectives, and forest managers approach forest systems and forest operations based on their sensibilities. Each of these variables factor into a logger’s approach.

Whatever the circumstances, all parties desire a positive economic outcome. At all stages of production those who add value want to be fairly compensated for their work. The win-win result hopefully applies to both the cash value of materials harvested and the impacts on the residual stand, as well. Clearly, this is not always how it works out.

When I first began business planning work with logging contractors, one of the first workshops I attended was with Steve Bick of Northeast Forests LLC. I “got” to play a game Steve called penny logging.  This game was like production and assembly exercises I had encountered at various lean trainings over the years.  The objective: given certain constraints, arrange assets and production to achieve the smoothest, most economic output. Over the years I have become keenly aware of the constraints (terrain, soil, weather, ownership, regulation) on any given timber harvest. The harvest in the video above is an example of loggers using the constraints to their advantage, creating an exciting and elegant material flow. Enjoy!

Northeast Maple Producer Survey

Maple producers can complete the survey here: Maple Producer Survey

Photo Credit: Mark Isselhardt

The University of Vermont is conducting the Northeast Maple Producer Survey to understand the recent development in the maple sector and to inform how education and research can support maple producers. The survey will ask you about your maple production history, forestry practices, business goals and educational interests. Current projects focus on the Northeast but producers in any US state are welcome to complete the survey!

Participants will be asked to complete the online version or print survey. The survey will take approximately 20 minutes to complete. If you would like to complete a paper version you can contact Christi Sherlock at 802-476-2003 or Christi.Sherlock@uvm.edu to have a copy mailed to you.

The results of this survey will be published by University of Vermont Extension, shared in industry publications and discussed at maple conferences beginning in Fall 2019.

Maple producers can complete the survey here: Maple Producer Survey

Spring Has Sprung – a Gasket!

by Tony Kitsos

This spring has been quite a challenge, to say the least! Weather reports across the state talk about rain in some location on any given day, and that makes us a bit grumpy! We’ve waited all winter to get this year’s crops in the ground and take first cut off — and here it is June 5th with plenty of work to do on most farms.

On a recent early-June drive from Morrisville to Middlebury I saw a good many cornfields un-spread, un-plowed, and unplanted. And the window for getting a mid-May first cut in and covered was slammed shut by a month with rainfall 4” over the historical average. The New Englander’s adage of a year’s seasons being 4 months of winter and 8 months of damn poor sleddin’ has held court. It seems that if there’s less that can be done in the field, it hampers doing other projects – just don’t want to get wrapped up in anything else in case the weather breaks and it’s time to head to the fields.

All well and good, but while we wait, we need to turn our attentions to another season that’s upon us… Construction season. As if having too much water in the fields isn’t enough, there’s plenty of mud hanging around the farmstead and making quite a mess! It’s pointing out some of the high-risk areas that need to be filled in, drained, graded, or whatever is needed to minimize farmstead runoff into our waterways. Take the opportunity to find areas needing attention. Do some easy fixes. And be sure that we’re all responsible for containing runoff when and where it occurs.

UVM Agricultural Business has funds to help you assess the financial feasibility of some of the more comprehensive projects. We work independently, or with NRCS and VAAFM staff to help you find the best, most cost-effective solutions to most any water quality situation.  Give us a call at the St. Albans office at 802-524-6501 and ask for Tony Kitsos. I’m looking forward to starting the conversation.

Digital Template Helps Logging Companies Develop A Business Plan (by Chris Lindgren)

UVM Extension Forest Business has added a new tool to the digital resources available to forest products businesses. Small Business Planning for Loggers was produced by Steve Bick and Chris Lindgren with support from Vermont’s Working Lands Enterprise Initiative.

Forest Business has been supporting digital tools and skill development in our work for five years now. Whether it’s bringing bookkeeping to the computer or online, using video conferencing for meetings, developing digitally based tools, or collaboration in cloud-based applications, acceptance of digital tools is increasingly becoming the norm with the business owners who engage in our program.

This morning as I was working on this blog I read a press release about a new report on digital skills development in rural America—Unlocking the Digital Potential of Rural America. Commissioned by Amazon and researched by the US Chamber of Commerce the report concludes that the adoption of new digital skills and technology in rural America will lead to significant economic gains.

“Increased adoption of online tools and digital services for businesses across rural America could create more than 360,000 jobs in the next three years.”

“Increased adoption could grow annual revenues of rural small businesses by more than 21% over the next three years – the equivalent of $84.5 billion per year.”

“Online tools and technology have the highest potential impact on rural small businesses with annual revenue under $100,000.”

I completely agree.  This is a huge opportunity for Vermont. Vermont’s small businesses have much to gain by developing digital know-how and adopting digital tools. Forest Business will continue to support development of digital skills and tools for Vermont’s forest economy. Stay up to date on Forest Business programs here.

Do you have thoughts on digital skills education? Please take a moment to fill out our educational resource assessment survey. Thank you.