Improve Your Farm Business: A program guide

A successful farm requires solid business and management skills as well as the ability to judge when a tomato is ripe or a calf is sick. There are a number of resources in Vermont designed to help beginning (and experienced) farmers cultivate their management, accounting, planning, and organizing skills - and many of them have enrollment deadlines coming up soon!
Jake Torrey of Honey Locust Farm in Bradford, VT, is a 2013 Journey Farmer. Jake Torrey of Honey Locust Farm in Bradford, VT, is a 2013 Journey Farmer.

One such program is NOFA Vermont's Journey Farmer program, designed to help beginning farmers succeed by matching them with experienced farmer mentors, providing them with educational opportunities (including free entrance to our upcoming Winter Conference and an educational stipend), and providing personalized technical and business planning assistance. The application period for this program is currently open through December 18. The Journey Farmer Program is for farmers with a few years of experience, secured access to land, and the intention to farm commercially in Vermont. If you don't fit that description, or have different needs, there are other great programs available for everyone from experienced farmers looking to expand or diversify, to aspiring farmers and entrepreneurs interested in testing the waters. The Farm Viability Program provides personalized business assistance to farms and other food system and land-based businesses. This program is best suited to farms and businesses with several years of experience that are interested in improving their business practices or changing their business model in some way (adding value-added products or tourism services, for instance). Applications are accepted on a quarterly basis; the next deadline is November 30. UVM's Building A Sustainable Business class is a six-week business planning class specifically for farms and land-based businesses. As UVM describes it, "this course will assist today’s alternative and traditional business owners alike with the creation of a holistic business plan rooted firmly in personal, community, economic and environmental values." A solid business plan is a roadmap to your farm's future, as well as an invaluable tool for securing loans, grants, and partnerships. This course is intended for farmers with up to five years of experience. Enrollment for this winter's course is open through November 22, and the course will take place in Berlin, Springfield, and St. Albans starting December 4. If you have not yet started a farm business but think you'd like to, Growing Places from the Women's Agricultural Network is a great place to start. Open to everyone, this "pre-business planning" course helps you map out your goals, strengths, and weaknesses, and introduces you to many of the other networks of support available in Vermont. The winter session, starting January 13, is held online, and registration closes December 13. If you just want to brush up on your businesses skills, there are shorter workshops and classes available. Do you know of other management and business courses or workshops available? Add them to our upcoming events calendar, and leave a comment here!