- Education and Training: decision support system, extension, mentoring, workshop
- Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, budgets/cost and returns, business planning, farmers' markets/farm stands, financial management, market study, marketing management, whole farm planning
- Sustainable Communities: leadership development
Problem and justification
Nationally, we have an aging farming population and a declining trend of beginning farmers entering farming. “Ensuring there will be a new generation of beginning farmers and ranchers — regardless of age or production choice—is important to the future of U.S. agricultural production” (“Cultivating”, 2016).
While Maine follows the national trends given above, it has already responded in earnest to meet these challenges. Maine’s agriculture and farm-related demographics are growing and diversifying each year. Both the number of farms and land in farms have increased since the 2007 Census of Agriculture. We have the most farms of the New England states, and the land in farms is up eight percent from 2007 (Keough, 2014). In sum, 33% of Maine’s farms are considered beginning farms (<10 years of operation), compared to the national average of 22% (NASS, 2012).
Although many beginning farmers have backgrounds in production, most have limited to no real world experience regarding the financial and legal aspects of running a successful farm enterprise. Business education and outreach programs are needed to better train this new generation of farmers.
Solution and approach
This project distinguishes itself by training and equipping University of Maine Cooperative Extension staff to offer small-class and one-on-one personalized guidance to beginning farmers. This will allow farmers to comprehensively explore, and continue working towards ensuring, the viability of their farm business ideas.
Processing all the information that is available to beginning farmers is often overwhelming and can render prospective farmers unable to know where to start. Being able to attend small, local classes geared to specifically address the most pressing issues Maine’s beginning farmers have, and/or to take advantage of the one-on-one consultation that the Agriculture Extension staff will be equipped to provide after this training is crucial to their success. It will help make the process of getting started in farming more accessible, assist prospective farmers in bringing their farm business to fruition and provide the extra support and time needed in developing marketing, production and/or business plans for the farm.
Training is proposed to be a two-day, interactive workshop where we will train Extension staff in whole farm planning, business and financial plan development, record-keeping, marketing, and identifying other key service providers. By using a more personal, collaborative approach with our clients, we strive to develop business, marketing and/or production plans for their farms that are useful and utilized.
Performance targets from proposal:
20 University of Maine Extension staff will collaborate to offer 4-6 (12-hour) trainings to 125 beginning farmers and 175 one-on-one consultations around Maine. These programs will assist in analyzing the feasibility of client farm operations.
200 beginning farmers develop business, marketing, and/or production plans as a result of the trainings/consultations.