Building Farm Financial Management Skills through Effective Distance Education

Project Overview

ENE20-166
Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $163,612.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2023
Grant Recipient: UNH Cooperative Extension
Region: Northeast
State: New Hampshire
Project Leader:
Seth Wilner
UNH Cooperative Extension

Commodities

  • Agronomic: corn, grass (misc. annual), grass (misc. perennial), hay, hops, potatoes, rye
  • Fruits: apples, berries (blueberries), berries (brambles), berries (strawberries), grapes, melons, peaches, pears, plums
  • Vegetables: asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), greens (lettuces), leeks, okra, onions, parsnips, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), rutabagas, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, tomatoes
  • Additional Plants: ginger, herbs, trees
  • Animals: bees, bovine, equine, poultry, sheep, swine
  • Animal Products: dairy, eggs, honey, meat
  • Miscellaneous: syrup

Practices

  • Education and Training: decision support system, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, budgets/cost and returns, financial management

    Proposal abstract:

    Problem and Justification:

    Farmers across all commodities are turning to agricultural professionals for assistance in financial management.  Yet there is limited capacity in the Northeast SARE region as a result of retirements. 

    Over 50 organizations collaborated in 2017 to develop a report entitled, “The Blueprint” that identified a need for farm financial technical assistance.  As “The Blueprint” (2017) details, skilled managers are essential to meeting the challenges facing today’s agricultural businesses.

    A survey sent out in the NESARE region had 73 respondents say there is a need in their area for agricultural service providers to assist farmers in financial management, only 2 said there was no need. In this same survey, 65 respondents expressed a desire to participate in this program, with another 15 saying “maybe.”

    Data show that farmers benefit from direct technical assistance. The Vermont Farm Viability Program and the Carrot Project found that with two years of business advising, farms increased profits between 50-62% and farmers had “significant improvements in entrepreneurial skills.”

    Solution and Approach:

    This project applies effective adult education methods to a distance-based learning model, supporting participants as they learn complex skills. 

    Our project will equip 25 agricultural service providers with farm financial management skills in basic accounting, financial record keeping, and financial statement preparation, with the objectives of assessing farm financial health and recommending changes to improve farm profitability.

    These skills sets will enable the agricultural service providers to equip farmers with entrepreneurial skills to increase profits and sustain businesses operations.

    Milestones and Performance Target:

    From January through March each year, 25 agricultural service providers will engage in five 90- minute, web-based sessions for a total of 15 sessions over three years.  Supported by a coach, participants will apply their learning on at least two farms and also teach at least one workshop in the three years.

    Prior to each session, participants will utilize an on-line learning platform with educational videos, readings, and podcasts to prepare. Participants will complete assignments housed on this platform to practice the skills they learned after each session. 

    Peer-to-peer learning allows participants an opportunity to problem solve and share successful approaches and tools with each other. These occur among five member cohorts who “meet” on-line twice yearly.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    Twenty-five agricultural service providers work intensively with two farmers each and deliver at least one workshop by project’s end, reaching 300 farmers throughout the program.  Service providers enhance their skills to assist farmers in keeping records, developing financial statements, evaluating farm financial health, assessing market channel profitability, and calculating cost of production and break-even points. One hundred farmers enhance their ability to keep business records, prepare accurate financial statements and assess their farm’s financial health.

    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.