Making Sound Decisions with Good Data and Practical Framework

Is it time to expand into value-added production? Should I get rid of one enterprise and specialize my products? Does it make sense to invest in a new piece of equipment?

This farmer workshop series will present a method to address challenges, opportunities, and current project ideas no matter if it’s changing day to day habits or locking down long-term plans.

Presenters will provide a framework that uses a number of tools to build confidence in the decision-making process. Participants will have access to one on one consultations and peer support throughout and following the series.

Whether you need to reflect and re-plan after major upheaval last year, or have something in the works that could benefit from a sounding board, bring your questions and ideas to these sessions and anticipate working with the content between and after session.

Pre-Series Session: “What is Good Data?”

Presented by Julia Shanks

Pre-Series Session part I: Wednesday, January 6th 1:30-3:00pm
Pre-Series Session part II: Friday, January 8th 1:30-3:00pm

This pre-series workshop is open to any farmers regardless of attendance of the main series. We strongly encourage anyone who is new to financial recordkeeping and analysis or wants to refresh their knowledge to attend this session. 

You’ve heard the expression “Garbage in, garbage out.” You know this in your farm business. If you use low quality seed and soil, you’ll have low quality crops. The same is true with recordkeeping. If you put garbage into your bookkeeping system, that’s what you’ll get out. But if you take the time and take care with your recordkeeping, then you will have the data you need to make important decisions about your business.

In this workshop, we’ll talk about “good data” – all the things you need to take into consideration as you get ready to analyze your business and make decisions for growth. We will cover:

  1. Different types of recordkeeping systems
  2. How to organize your financial transactions so you can get the information you need to make decisions
  3. A framework to think about numbers as you get ready to do seasonal planning.

Main Series

Presented by Crystal Stewart-Courtens, Stevie Schafenacker, and Rose Wilson

Series Dates:
Session 1: Wednesday, January 27th 4-6pm
Session 2: Wednesday, February 3rd, 4-6pm
Session 3: Wednesday, February 10th, 12:30-2:30pm
Session 4: Wednesday, February 17th, 12:30-2:30pm
Cohort Gathering: March 10th, 12:30-2:30pm

The main series will focus on the “practical framework”. Rose Wilson, Stevie Schafenacker, and Crystal Stewart-Courtens combine concepts of Whole Farm Planning, financial analysis and feasibility study over the course of four sessions, post session assistance, and a late winter peer cohort meeting.

Content in workshop series will be adapted to the needs and experience levels of participants. We will reach out to attendees after registration to get to know your farm and the current challenges you wish to address or opportunities you wish to take advantage.

Sessions 1 & 2:

Holistic Management International (HMI) developed a Whole Farm Planning framework that assists farmers with sound decision-making; one that incorporates the diverse factors impacted by our decisions such as social needs, long-term visions, and financial health.

Presenters Crystal Stewart-Cortens and Stevie Schafenacker adapt the core principles of HMI for the first half of the series. In these two sessions we will:

  • Develop working values based goals
  • Practice the Holistic Decision-Making process including testing methods and root cause analysis
  • Introduce the holistic approach to prioritizing financial decisions
  • Brainstorm solutions and prioritize next steps for the second half of the session

In Session 3 we will consider the logistical and financial needs to determine the feasibility of actions prioritized in the first half of the series: What questions need to be asked to assess whether an action is feasible? Where and how to find the answers? And what to do with the data? Presenter Rose Wilson will introduce an excel financial workbook designed originally for the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board Farm Viability Program that can be used to store data and create scenarios to test various actions.

In Session 4, utilizing the financial workbook, we will begin assessing whether the idea is feasible and continue an iterative process of evaluating next steps or what changes need to be made after an initial assessment.

After Session 4, participants will take what was learned and work from home with their other farm managers and decision-makers to move forward with their current scenario (or a new one). With the presenters, we will identify next steps and determine if one on one support is needed. We will gather together again in March to share progress and receive small group peer feedback.

About the Presenters

Julia Shanks is a business consultant who works with food and agricultural entrepreneurs to help them achieve and maintain financial sustainability. She is the author of The Farmer’s Office: Tools, Tips, and Templates to Successfully Manage a Growing Farm Business.

Crystal Stewart-Courtens is a Vegetable Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension and co-owner of Philia Farm in Johnstown, NY. She is a practitioner of Holistic Management and Whole Farm Planning.

Stevie Schafenacker is the CISA Technical Assistance Coordinator. She recently graduated from a NE SARE Whole Farm Planning in the Northeast Train the Trainers program and has worked with farms in Western MA over the course of the three year program.

Rose Wilson founded her consulting company in 2004 and since then she has worked with over 350 farms and food producers, helping with business launch, expansion, and exit; enterprise analysis; and market development. Rose began her career as a National Sales Manager and Vertical Market Supervisor for Geographic Data Technology, Inc. (now Tom Tom). She migrated to Harpoon Brewery where she served as Business Development Manager until 2004 when she launched her private consulting business.

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