November 18th marks the start of the thirteenth year of Central Illinois Farm Beginnings. It is amazing to think that we have been training beginning farmers for so many years. To date, we have shepherded 199 beginning farmers through the business planning process! As always, our mission with Farm Beginnings is to provide new farmers with the business planning skills they need to launch financially viable farm businesses.
This year, Farm Beginnings is getting a facelift. As time has marched on, the needs of our students have evolved. Past students and current prospective students have told me that they need a more condensed, focused, and impactful course. I have worked hard this summer to reconfigure Farm Beginnings to meet these current needs.
Here are the changes:
- The course schedule is condensed from nine to six Saturdays.
- A post-mentorship follow-up session will focus on lessons learned with your mentor.
- Mentor matching will occur earlier in the course calendar.
- An individual facilitator and mentor 2-hour consultation and business plan review will add much needed individual attention for each student.
- The calendar builds in much needed time for students to craft their business plans prior to their presentation to the class.
The course content is more streamlined, giving our current crop of students everything they need to know to start a successful farm business, while allowing them to fold the course into their every increasingly busy schedules.
November 18: Whole Farm Planning
- Clarifying values: what has brought you to Central Illinois Farm Beginnings?
- Setting goals: what do you hope to accomplish?
- Introduction to the structure and rationale of a business plan
- SWOT analysis
- Resource assessment
- Real-life farm business plan examples
December 2: Fun with Financial Statements
- Enterprise budgets
- Big 3 Financial Statements: Income Statement, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow Statement
- Farm scale, capitalization, labor, taxes
December 16: Systems Planning, Record-Keeping, & Legal Issues
- Agroecology and soil health
- Business structures
- GAPS/FSMA record-keeping
- Production record-keeping
- Insurance and risk management
January 6: Marketing your farm products
- Introduction to marketing and the four “P’s”
- Marketing to chefs, restaurants, institutions
- Using social media marketing
- Farmer’s markets, co-ops, food hubs and beyond
January/February: Individual Consultations
- Two-hour personal consultation with course facilitator and mentor
- Farm proposal review
- Business plan evaluation
February 17: Financing Your Farm Business & Farm Plan Presentations
- Financing your farm
- Loans, grants, and other options
- Student Business Plan Presentations
October 7: Post-season Business Plan Updates
- Student presentations, post-season
- Annual potluck