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Conference will address the business of farming February 21

Agriculture is the number one industry in many counties throughout the Appalachian region, specifically in southwest Virginia and northeast Tennessee. Within the agricultural industry there is an array of growers who file a schedule F on their tax returns. These schedule Fs can show farm income ranging from one thousand dollars or less to over one million dollars. Nonetheless, filing a schedule F assumes you are running your farm as a business rather than a hobby or for home consumption.
“Yes, it’s tax season folks,” says Tamara McNaughton, agriculture program manager. “But I’m not talking about doing your taxes. I’m talking about running your farm, or any money making venture, as a well-managed business.
“I used to work in western North Carolina producing native azaleas from seed for the Christmas tree and nursery industry. An extension agent who mentored me had many wise things to share. I will never forget one thing he said, ‘There are great producers and great business people. It’s the great business people who make money from farming. It’s unfortunate that products sit on farms from great producers who don’t understand business and marketing’.”
Running a farm as a business is much more obvious for larger producers. “It’s the small producers that I am sometimes concerned about,” says McNaughton. Do these producers really have a grasp of the business elements of their farming venture? Do they keep records so they can make smart decisions? Do they keep their receipts in a shoe box or do their monthly bookkeeping? Tending to the business of the farm may not matter to some, as it’s a side job that gives them the chance to make some money from doing what they love. But just because we love to farm, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep an eye on the business elements. If a farm venture is going to be sustainable, it needs to be economically viable.
The opportunity to write a business plan is here. Appalachian Sustainable Development is a partner of the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Program (VBFRCP). Business planning classes are being offered through the VBFRCP by Appalachian Sustainable Development. Classes will be offered in Financial Needs Assessment, Marketing Planning, and Preparing to Approach a Bank at the Appalachian Farmers Market Conference on February 21. Two follow up sessions will be held where you’re provided the time to put your thoughts on paper and get that business plan written. One session about product/service and marketing is being held on February 26th. The other session about business operations is being held on March 5th from 6-8 pm. Additional sessions will be held in October. Having a living document provides you with a roadmap to drive your business to success. One-on-one technical assistance will continue for people who want to hammer out the details of their business plans and complete a working business plan that will help guide smart business decisions.
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.