Agriculture is Changing
Traditionally, farming has been deemed a “way of life” with the expectation of the existing farm being passed on to the next generation without discussion. Although production agriculture is responsible for feeding our nation, individual farmers do not have much control over crop/milk prices, futures’ markets, and consumer demands for product let alone the weather. But some of this may be changing beginning with an innovative generation of new farmers. Sometimes choosing to farm has to do with beginning a second career or sometimes a current farmer may have a desire to try a unique crop for a niche market.
However, many new farmers do not have a farm background and diversifying a traditional farm can be a major challenge. So, in choosing to seek business assistance these folks often contact their local Cornell Cooperative Extension Association which, in turn, refers them to NY FarmNet. Consultants located all over the state work with FarmNet staff to provide business and human resources management assistance to both new and existing farms and farm families. Currently, there are thirty-four FarmNet consultants with expertise in finance, management, taxation, legal issues and social work. All have had personal experience with agriculture and most important, they all have a desire to help farm families be successful from both a business and personal standpoint.
Developing a business plan which begins with an analysis of current enterprises and a feasibility study of the new venture is required by most lenders today, but may seem overwhelming at first. The plan provides a road map for the enterprise and includes objectives, progress measurements and marketing methods. A FarmNet consultant can help the farmer to determine what the goals of the enterprise are and how to make informed decisions on proceeding into the future.
Some of the new ag-business ventures that FarmNet is assisting with include: an agro-tourism farm-to-fork experience, biomass processing, producing ethanol from a local forage crop, cheese made from sheep’s milk, locally grown livestock to restaurant market, community supported agriculture (CSAs) and direct-marketing of local products.
NY FarmNet: A Working Resource
NY FarmNet was established during the 1980’s national farm crisis to provide farm families with a network of information and services as they faced mounting financial and personal challenges. But today FarmNet is more than a crisis hotline – its mission is to help farmers and farm families build positive solutions for future success and their track record is excellent. Staff and consultants work closely with CCE to provide programs for the farm community on business and estate planning. Ed Staehr, NY FarmNet Executive Director, states, “Over 90% of the farms we have worked with have stayed in business.”
FarmNet is also a partner in Cornell Cooperative Extension’s NY Beginning Farmer Project through the Cornell Small Farms Program. This project provides support not only for new farmers but those who wish to diversify through on-line courses, an informational website and educational materials.
For more information visit the NY FarmNet website or call 1-800-547-FARM. All services are free and confidential.