Today’s farmers have to do more than just grow food; running a successful operation requires a broad range of skills, including marketing, business management, mechanical repair, and agronomy. To more effectively meet the growing needs of family farmers and ranchers, the National Farmers Union Foundation has refocused its general farm education programs around the Farm and Ranch Business Health Assessment and a new Farm Business Toolbox. These free resources will help farmers identify their operations’ strengths and weaknesses and offer opportunities to improve their business acumen.
“Whether you’re growing wheat for global markets or tomatoes and zucchini for local chefs, strong farm management skills are critical to your success,” said NFUF Director Tom Driscoll. “Family farmers can rely on the BHA, the Farm Business Toolbox, and NFU’s education programs as they work to improve their operations and address vulnerabilities.”
According to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Services, average net farm income was $43,053 in 2017, a $697 decrease since 2012. The challenges to profitability farmers face demand rigor and sophistication in farm business management. The BHA organizes management topics into the following categories: Business Formation, Land and Succession Planning, Accounting, Taxation, Labor and Contractors, Production and Marketing, Credit, and Miscellaneous, which includes Business Planning, Insurance, and Energy.
Looking for opportunities to hear from experts on these topics? Three of NFUF’s general farm education programs are structured around the Farm Business Toolbox model:
- Beginning Farmers Institute (BFI), a free training program for new producers of all ages and operation type/size.
- Growing for the Future (GFTF), a free, online, interactive conference focused on beginning farmer and rancher issues.
- National Farmers Union’s Women’s Conference, which focuses on the concept of agricultural community building, education, and networking.
These programs and the Farm Business Toolbox are modeled after the BHA, a diagnostic tool, authored by farm advisor Poppy Davis, and originally developed in 2017 by California FarmLink and Sustainable Agriculture Education, with funding from the USDA Farm Service Agency. The 2019 update, funded by Farm Credit Council, follows two years of field testing in partnership with training organizations around the country.
After using the BHA to identify farm business improvement priorities, participating farmers can consult the NFUF Farm Business Toolbox for additional information on those topics.