Enhancing Economic Stability by Building Financial Resilience: A Model for Collaborative Learning Among Beginning Farmers in Southwest Wisconsin

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2016: $18,410.00
Projected End Date: 04/01/2018
Grant Recipient: Bantum Fruit Farm
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Marie Raboin
Brix Cider Company

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Fruits: apples, melons
  • Vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), leeks, lentils, onions, parsnips, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), rutabagas, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts


  • Education and Training: networking, study circle
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, feasibility study, agricultural finance, market study, risk management, value added
  • Sustainable Communities: community services, sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:


    Illiteracy of finances, including proper accounting, tax systems, and personal management is crippling the ability for young farmers to make educated decisions on farm growth, production and sustainability. There has been an increasing amount of focus on beginning farmers in the United States and how to best support those willing to farm. To farm effectively one must understand climate, soils, animals, and finances. Farm finances are exceedingly important, but are often discussed in an abstract manner. This grant will provide the much needed one on one training for each farm’s unique financial situation. Many farms lack a strong business plan supported by advice from a financial advisor who understands small scale farm production and markets. As our farm begins to take shape we are making financial decisions and investments that will affect our short and long term financial goals as both a viable business as well as a family. We have a vision for our farm and where we want to be, but the roadmap to get there involves banks and investors, an area that is not well represented in coursework in college. Beginning farmers, especially those without access to the family farm have a distinct disadvantage when it comes to making financial decisions because they are not back-stopped by the family. It is these farms that require meticulous financial management in order to survive. Many beginning farmers in Wisconsin have the passion to work hard, care for the land and produce a quality product, but lack the financial literacy to be economically sustainable.


    This grant will facilitate financial conversations to take place in small group settings under the supervision of experienced financial advisors and investment consultants. Lessons in business plan development, accounting, investments and loans will provide a detailed roadmap to make financially sustainable decisions. This setting will allow for personalized advice, but also use each farm’s unique situation as a learning opportunity. The ability to share finances in a trusting, open environment will ensure sustainable financial resilience. As the face of agriculture changes due to advances in technology, so has the face of accounting. In place of “bookkeeping,” we have computers, tablets and accounting software to maximize record keeping efficiency. These tools can help direct financial decisions when used to their full potential. Marie will facilitate the group meeting 8 times over 18 months. Each farm will host the meeting at least once. Quickbooks® accounting software as well as tablets would be provided to ensure continuity across farms for training purposes. A consultant from Badgerland Financial would help participants set up the software, create their charts of accounts, and train them on the features and functioning of the software. It’s critical to get off to a good start to ensure accuracy. Because it will be a small group, each individual farm’s unique situation will be addressed by the consultant. In addition, Tera Johnson from UW Extension Food and Finance Institute will provide a detailed lesson in how to utilize loans and investors to their full potential. These lessons, along with conversations about money will prepare the participants to make confident financial decisions about their future and feel supported by their new community. The hope is that each farm will progress towards their goals and significant changes will have occurred and be witnesses by all participants.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Facilitate financial conversations to take place in small group settings under the supervision of experienced financial advisors and investment consultants, providing a detailed roadmap for beginning farmers to make financially sustainable decisions.
    2. Train beginning farmers in using accounting software to maximize record keeping efficiency and accuracy.
    3. Through these conversations and educational/training experiences, empower each farm to progress towards its goals and get support from this new community.
    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.