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

Project Overview

FNC16-1052
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

Commodities

  • 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

Practices

  • 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

    Summary:

    In 2016-2017 a group of 7 farms (13 farmers) in Southwest and Southcentral Wisconsin met a total of 7 times to discuss various financial aspects of running a farm and farm related business.  The operations were very diverse and included vegetables, apples, hard cider, on-farm entertainment, grass-fed beef, small grains and CSAs.  The objective was to come together as a group under the supervision of professionals in finance and learn financial literacy and other related skills.  Although the project has ended, the group is continuing into 2018.  We have plans to meet with a retirement planner as well as a session on utilizing social media more effectively.  The results are well documented in a before and after survey depicted in graph form in the results section as well as individual write-ups of each farm explaining what they learned from being a participant in the project.  Not only did all the farms have real changes to their operation based on the project, but we all became each others support systems for a number of topics.  For example, Marie has helped talk many in the group through government cost share programs, Rami has helped Marie and Beth improve apple growing on their farms, and others have gained the confidence to take out the loans they need to grow their business in a profitable way.

     

     

    Project objectives:

    All farms have purchased all hardware and software specified in the grant.  Fearless Farm Finances and SARE’s  Building a Sustainable Business: A Guide to Developing a Business Plan for Farms and Rural
    Businesses 
    have been supplied to all participants.  Marie, Lauren and Eric have hosted meetings.

    Prior to the first meeting in July a survey was developed and sent to the group to measure baseline knowledge, attitudes and behavior surrounding financial terms, level of comfort in making financial decisions and overall financial literacy.

    graphs

    Overall, the survey shows that there is variability within the group depending on the subject.  Taxes in general seemed to be an area where most people in the group had little to no confidence.  It also seemed as though people may understand certain terms and how to create financial documents, but lack the understanding to analyze their unique situation.

    In addition, an open ended question was asked at the end of the survey.  Responses are given below:

    “Get a handle on the basics of financial management for our farm.  Understand how to think about and fund investments.  Start towards a point where we feel confident enough to file our own taxes”

    “As we start our small business I want to avoid making financial mistakes that are avoidable.  I want to feel confident when talking to bankers, lenders and investors and ensure that I am making the most educated decisions possible”

    “…More of the day to day financial management aspects [of farm financials]”

    “A clearer picture of where the farm needs to go financially to support our family, allow my husband to quit his job and join me in making our income from the farm in various ways”

    “Find out if I need cash flow and balance sheets.  Also, the ability to evaluate different farm enterprises for profitability”

    As the meetings continue with various experts and advisers throughout 2017 we should be able to answer these questions.  Already, farmers have expressed gratitude and further understanding of financial terms.

    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.