- Education and Training: decision support system, farmer to farmer, networking, workshop, technical assistance
- Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance, risk management
- Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management
- Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, sustainability measures
We have made an organized response to the myths and misunderstandings unveiled in the analysis of surveys to lenders, educators, and sustainable farmers delivered in 2002- 2003. Field days targeted lender/educator needs for on-farm exposure to sustainable practices. Business planning and credit/loan workshops as well as a scholarship fund have addressed the need for record keeping by farmers. We made great strides with two major organizations of lenders and agriculture educators via presentations and on-going dialogue. Judging by the continued press on the topic, these efforts have generated an interest in “smarter” credit for sustainable farmers and the records such credit entails.
- Credit liaison training – Training people to be credit liaisons provides the beginning farmer – and a prospective banker – with a bridge across one of the most confusing and intimidating aspects of farming, accessing needed credit.
Business planning workshops – Two hands-on business plan training programs will be offered. Participants will be farmers and agriculture educators, the latter whom will be paired with willing farmer participants. The course will be held in Western and Southeastern Minnesota.
In-service/farm tours – Lenders and educators alike have expressed the need and enthusiasm for learning about sustainable agriculture by going to the source. Accordingly, four or more farm tours and in-service presentations will be arranged with lenders, educators, and farmers in mind. More formal indoor venues will be included at the recommendation of several lenders.
Partial scholarships – In order to provide on-going farm business training, cross-fertilization between Farm Business Management instructors and sustainable farmers, the beginning of a viable data base of sustainable agriculture enterprises, and gain the attention of some lenders, partial scholarships will be provided to Farm Beginning™ graduates to enroll in the Farm Business Management Program.
Roundtable – A working group of lenders, Extension Service educators, FBM instructors, related credit and business trainers, and Farm Beginning™ participants will convene to describe, validate, and improve respective program materials that relate to credit access for sustainable agriculture enterprises.
Whole farm planning short course/farm tour – Two, day-long introductions to Whole Farm Planning (WFP) will be offered to Western and Southeastern Minnesota lenders, educators, and farmers. Farm Beginnings™ graduates and staff as well as WFP trainers and graduates will provide the basics of this as well as the on-farm component dedicated to the specifics of sustainable agriculture.
Written outreach – While the proposal puts a strong focus on hands-on and face-to-face work, some degree of written outreach is needed to touch those who cannot make it to organized events.