Farms for Maine’s Future: Comprehensive, Sustainable Strategies Using Teams
Through this project, at least 20 Maine farmers will receive individualized, focused assistance to develop and implement comprehensive management strategies tailored to their specific circumstances. In round one, 13 farmers met with teams of service providers who helped them develop business plans. Nine received grants toward the implementation of their business plan. A second round was begun in October when 21 farms were chosen from 46 applicants.
Not only did the farmers feel the program was helpful, the extension educators, Small Business Development Ccounselors, and other service providers felt they had gained considerable understanding of small farm operations.
Of the 130 Maine farmers (from small- or medium-sized farms) actively engaged in this project, 20 farmers will both increase farm profits and enhance the environment by the end of the project (November 2004)
This project is all about changing behavior. It is designed to:
-change how service-providers support these farmers
-change how these farmers research options and plan their future
-change how these farmers run their farms
January-Teams of four to seven service providers were assembled for the 15 farms chosen for round one. Initial meetings were scheduled. By mid-February, all the teams had held their first meeting.
March-Deadlines for phase II funding were set for April 18 and September 30. This gave the teams deadlines to work toward. The application of phase II was drafted and the phase I application was revised.
April-Five farms submitted business plans for phase II funding. Four were funded for a total of $94,250.
September-Twenty-one of the 46 applications received for Round II, phase I were accepted for business planning assistance. Three farms received phase II grants for a total of $55,533.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
- Small Business Development Center counselors who had no previous experience with farm businesses gained considerable new understanding through the team approach used to help the farmers develop business plans. Likewise, extension educators gained in their understanding of the value of business planning. Virtually all service providers working on teams came away saying they felt they had learned more than they contributed.
Organic consultants on teams for conventional farms and conventional farming consultants working with organic farms have expanded the knowledge of organic methods to both farmers and service providers.
Eight hundred and ninety-five acres of farmland were put under five-year non-development agreements. Seven hundred and sixty-five acres were put under ten-year agreements.
Smith Farm built a small storage facility and new markets for beef and veal sales and are building a new barn.
Chase farm purchased an additional farm that would have been developed otherwise. It is permanently protected from development. While that was their initial goal, they have continued using team members to develop new marketing strategies.
Goodenough farm is building a fruit drying facility to add value to organic apples that are not top quality.
The Kafka organic vegetable farm added a new-to-them tractor and delivery truck, made repairs to their barn, and installed storage space that allows them to extend their season. With these facilities they were able to expand their acres of production.
The Howell farm business plan is for a computer system to help small farmers. It was turned down for phase II funding only because it was felt the proposal that had been developed could easily receive funding from other sources, as it had a wider appeal than just value for the individual farm. Review panel members recommended the program to other grant program administrators.
The approach to business planning for farmers has attracted the attention of other programs. We are working with the Land for Maine’s Future program, which has a business planning component for farms selling conservation easements to the state.