Improving Whole Farm Planning Education in the Northeast

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2017: $149,945.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2020
Grant Recipient: Center for Agriculture Development and Entrepreneurship
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
sarah williford
University of New Hampshire Extention


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: decision support system, extension, mentoring
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, budgets/cost and returns, business planning, financial management, labor/employment, whole farm planning
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, leadership development, quality of life

    Proposal abstract:

    Problem and Justification

    Whole Farm Planning is a risk management strategy that gives farmers tools to manage profitable and ecologically sound businesses. From 2005 - 2012 NESARE funded 25 Agricultural Service Providers in similar training, however fewer than seven are still employed and assist farmers. A new demand was identified by agricultural service providers to build skills in whole farm planning and risk management decision making.

    74 agricultural service providers from the Northeast SARE region expressed strong interest in being trained, indicating a need for Whole Farm Planning skills. Respondents cited specific needs to build skills in goal setting (60), business planning (62), farm design / land planning (62), and financial planning (60).


    Solution and Approach

    Our program includes a combination of existing curriculum and pedagogy created by Holistic Management International and the Center for Agricultural Development & Entrepreneurship. Additional tools and approaches developed by instructors will be used to train participants.

    This three-year program will train 25 participants throughout the NESARE region to use a systems approach to teach whole farm planning to farmers they work with, driven by a solid understanding of the complex relationships between economic, environmental and social factors.

    Participants will work with five farmers each to develop whole farm plans enabling them to establish and maintain sustainable farm enterprises and management practices.

    Participants will learn: (a) whole farm planning strategies including goal setting and strategic decision making; (b) farm design and land planning; (c) financial planning, enterprise selection, and strategic farm investment; (d) marketing and business planning, (e) effective leadership and labor management. These topic areas were derived from an on-line needs assessment survey completed by 79 agricultural professionals. In addition, the survey also directed the educational approaches desired.

    The program consists of three 2.5-day residential sessions augmented with two 4-week on-line courses. Residential sessions include content knowledge and effective instruction techniques. The sessions will be interactive, involve farmers, and result in increased knowledge, tool development and enhanced teaching skills. Online sessions will be self-paced, addressing time constraints ag educators face, and have assignments and activities to reinforce the learning. Feedback and evaluations will be used throughout the program to structure the learning.

    The overall training will use pre-session assignments, decision cases, on-farm activities, a learning community of farmers, and program mentoring.

    Each participant will work with five farms to apply the knowledge and skills they learn in the residential and on-line sessions.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    25 agricultural service providers will be trained in Whole Farm Planning. They will complete Whole Farm Plans with 125 farmers who manage over 4,000 acres. The goal is to increase farm environmental health, economic viability, and the quality of life of the farmers and those with whom they work.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.