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CONDUCTING A UVM EXTENSION FARM VIABILITY PROGRAM© IN VERMONT CONDUCTING A UVM EXTENSION FARM VIABILITY PROGRAM© IN VERMONT LeVitre, R.A. Director, UVM Extension Farm Viability Program©, 278 South Main Street, Suite 2, St. Albans, VT 05478-1866 The University of Vermont Extension Farm Viability Program© provides farmers the opportunity to develop successful whole farm business plans which establish clear goals and objectives with achievable strategies. Applicants working with Farm Business Planners begin by identifying and gathering data on farm description, ownership structure, buildings and assets, farm labor and a brief description of production practices. Initial financial information including past years tax forms, available balance sheets and income statements are collected. Market description and assessment, alternative products, proposed construction projects are used in refining projected business ideas and strategies. The client is able to make informed decisions about the farm’s future and the feasibility of proposed changes. The farmer gains confidence with clearer knowledge of farm assets and a fine-tuned working document valuable when working with financial institutions on future endeavors. Vermont Small Business Development Center conducts third party evaluation on all plans. Each farmer completing a Farm Business Plan is requested to complete a written survey designed to evaluate the progress and effectiveness of the work and a Year 2 formal evaluation is conducted to determine implementation of the plan, assist in securing funding for implementation where needed and to update business plans for future direction. Since its inception in 2004 with an initial grant of $67,000, UVM has worked with over 250 farms and produced 188 business plans and funding has increased to over $550,000. “The Farm Viability Project has helped in the overall transfer of the farm business to the next generation. With four sons now on the farm having a concrete vision and direction for the future will help to ensure success. And a business plan is a critical part of this. Loren Wood, Woodnotch Farm, Shoreham, Vermont What is the Farm Viability Program? The Farm Viability Enhancement Program provides Vermont farmers with a business plan service combined with technical assistance in areas of expertise identified by the farmer. The Farm Viability Program uses specialists to provide technical assistance tailored to a farmer’s needs to fulfill specific business goals. Examples include consultations on keeping better production or financial records, financial benchmark analysis, meetings with crop or animal health specialists, new farm enterprise analysis, estate and farm transfer planning, labor management, and value- added processing. The business planning process involves the farmer in an assessment of the farm operation’s strengths and weaknesses and in an exploration of possible management changes that could increase profitability. On-farm consultations result in the preparation of a written business plan. Funding Provided By: Vermont Housing & Conservation Board In collaboration with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets Additional funding provided by USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service USDA Risk Management Education Anonymous Donor “Our farm is not a turn key operation. It is up to the next generation to create their own unique ag enterprise. Farm Viability helped to educate us allowing fine tuning of our economic viability.” Beth Kennett, Liberty Hill Farm, Rochester, Vermont Services Provided *Development of a farm business plan Farm Transfer information & assistance Farm systems management planning Technical assistance: ag engineering, marketing Referrals to extension specialists Conclusion The key feature of UVM Extension’s Farm Viability Enhancement Program is the development of the farm business plan. Business planning is a tool that is used in much of the business world to evaluate strengths and weaknesses, to strategize for success, and to inform prospective lenders and investors about an enterprise. Now, more and more farmers are discovering the advantages of business planning. The process begins with setting goals and identifying management problems and opportunities. A complete set of farm financial data is assembled from financial data is assembled from the owners records. From there the process focuses on production, markets, efficiency, infrastructure and any other aspect of the farm operation. The final product is a written document that describes how the farm will be profitable in the foreseeable future. Who is eligible to apply? Vermont farmers who own or lease farmland are eligible to apply. Applicants must be willing to devote time to a series of meetings with a farm business management specialist and with selected technical specialists and farm management educators. LeVitre, R.A. Director, UVM Extension Farm Viability Program©, 278 South Main Street, Suite 2, St. Albans, VT 05478-1866 * 2011 # bus plans is projected Business Plans completed 2004-2010 Business Planner w/ Farm Family VT Young Farmers who completed a Business Plan
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