Farmer Training

The Come Thru Market Farmer Training Program is aligned with OSU's Whole Farm Management book. We use the structure of this book to help us shape the structure of the program.

The Farmer Training Program is most concerned with the content presented in the Dream It, Sell It, Manage It, and Keep It chapters. We will also incorporate many other resources and consider topics that may not be addressed in the Whole Farm Management book.

OSU also offers a full online course, Growing Farms Online: Successful Whole Farm Management. We have no affiliation with Oregon State University or other content creators whose work we have used. Free farmer resources benefit all of us and we're grateful to those who have shared so freely.

Jump to a section

In each section below you will find an overview of the topics covered, a list of the required business development activities (the "homework"), and a summary of what you can expect to gain from reading the whole book chapter.

Check the schedule to see when we're discussing a particular section.

Dream It: Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning work allows you to consider your values and vision with regard to your business as well as to establish or reconnect with the mission for your farm business. In order to do this work you will have to do some holistic assessment of your business.

Business Development Activities:

  1. 1-page Business Plan (template, example)

  2. Start your Strategic Plan:

    1. Mission statement draft

    2. Vision statement (template)

    3. Values statement (template)

  3. Determine what you farm and for whom. Make sure this is reflected in your mission, vision, and values. If you need help focusing, work through the Enterprise Selection worksheets (annual crops, livestock, and perennial crops).

If you read the whole chapter you will be able to:

  • Outline a whole farm planning process that helps you achieve your personal and business goals.

  • Identify the vision and values for your farm business.

  • Write a draft mission statement for your farm business.

  • Develop an inventory and assessment of the natural and physical resources that describe your farm (or potential farm).

  • Identify your farm team and work with that group of people to build your farm business.

  • Create a draft SWOT analysis for your farm business.

Do It: Farm Infrastructure, Labor, and Energy

This section will help you think through the aspects of your farm that make it work for you and help you reach your goals.

You will not have specific business development work for this section, it is expected that you'll read through the book chapter as you have time.

If you read the whole chapter you will be able to:

  • Understand the decision-making process for investments in equipment, buildings, fences, and other farm infrastructure.

  • Develop a preliminary list of season-extension and irrigation options that may be appropriate for your farm.

  • Know the basic requirements of hiring labor and be able to apply the laws and regulations associated with farm labor to your own business.

  • Analyze the energy needs of your farm and explore possible energy-efficiency projects for the farm.

Sell It: Markets and Marketing

This section of the program is designed to ensure you are able to sell your products at local farmers markets. In order to sell your produce at markets you will need to obtain certain types of licensing.

Business Development Activities:

  1. Brand narratives. Select at least one of your products and discover how well you can describe and sell your product. What is the story of your farm and your product? Can you explain it all in 30 seconds? Can you talk about it (coherently) for 5 uninterrupted minutes? Work at telling the story of your farm and a specific product until you can do both of these things.

  2. Read Envisioning Your Marketplace with Mimo Davis and Miranda Duschack of Urban Buds (p. 102-103).

  3. Begin to develop a pricing strategy. Consider the pros and cons of Competition-based pricing and Cost-based pricing (p. 105). Consider other strategies as well.

  4. Begin researching your local competitors and their prices. Can you identify their brand narratives and how those do/do not factor into their pricing strategies?

  5. Continue to work on your overall marketing plan by listing the pros and cons of each marketing channel. (template)

  6. In your planning, consider when you market and which products you market at what times. Make sure you are thinking about when you (and your farm team) rest - do you market in the winter or take winters off? How do these options impact your budget? (See p. 112-113 for more info on these ideas.)

If you read the whole chapter you will be able to:

  • Know the key concepts and philosophies that form the foundation for successful farm marketing.

  • Understand the different types of markets - and the challenges, benefits and considerations associated with each.

  • Identify which marketing strategies are most compatible with your farm business.

  • Know what information you need to create a successful marketing plan.

  • Connect the mission of your farm to your marketing strategy and financial goals.

Manage It: Business Management for the Farm 1

Business management practices that work for your business will be essential to your success. This section will help unpack these concepts and apply them to your farm. You will create connections between the concepts in the Dream It and Sell It sections that help you better define your financial goals.

To help make it manageable, this section has been split into part 1 budgeting (p.135-149) and part 2 recordkeeping and analysis (p. 150-167). Make sure you do both.

Business Development Activities:

  • Develop a profit goal for your farm business. To do this you will need to consider personal expenses, business expenses, and your projected income. How much profit does your business need at the end of the day to cover it all? Make sure you're also thinking about how you get paid.

  • Create a sample sales budget. It's just a guess, it won't be perfect (p. 138). Pencil and paper is fine.

  • Create a sample expense budget. Who needs money from you and how often? It's just a guess, it won't be perfect (p. 141). Pencil and paper is fine.

  • Think about when your business needs cash available and make a list with dates - buying seeds, amendments, field help during harvest, etc. This is one half of your draft cash flow budget.

  • Think about when your business has cash coming in and make a list with dates - farmers markets, CSA signups, holiday fairs, etc. This is the second half of your draft cash flow budget.

If you read the whole chapter you will be able to:

  • Understand the role that different types of budgets have in farm business planning and be able to create budgets for your farm business.

  • Know what kinds of records you need to keep track of farm finances.

  • Understand the various types of accounting systems and implement an accounting system appropriate for your farm business.

  • Be able to create basic financial statements for your farm business that help you monitor income and expenses, manage your cash flow, and assess your financial position.

  • Know what kinds of financing options are available to you - and be able to assess those options based on your needs.

  • Be able to analyze the differences between what you planned for and what actually happened, and how to use this information to make decisions that allow you to reach your financial goals.

Manage It: Business Management for the Farm 2

This is part 2 of Business Management for the Farm, make sure you have done part 1 first. The second half of this section covers record keeping including both sales and yield records.

Business Development Activities:

  • Key Concepts: Cash vs Accrual (video)

    • You don't need to choose a system right now, but you should understand the basics of each.

  • Cash Flow Management : Tracking Cash Balance (video)

  • Fill out the other budget-related templates mentioned in this chapter of the book: budgets and variances, cash flow and accounting systems, production costs, financing, and balance sheets.

  • Workshop: Record Keeping for Farm Business Decision Making (video, slides)

    • Record Keeping Exercise (instructions)

    • Decide now how you will successfully use consistent product names and units of measure.

  • Workshop: Know Your Cost to Grow (video)

  • OPTIONAL: Costing Basics for Multi-Crop Vegetable Farms (video 1, 2, 3, 4)

Grow It: Managing the Whole Farm Ecosystem

This chapter of the book is about "the work of managing your land and resources as a farm ecosystem to produce crops and livestock" (p. 17) and will provide you with support that applies to all farming systems that you may be working in - annual crops, perennial crops, and grass-based livestock systems.

You will not have specific business development work for this section, it is expected that you'll read through the book chapter as you have time.

If you read the whole chapter you will be able to:

  • View your farm as an ecosystem and understand your role within it.

  • Better understand the natural cycles and organisms that are part of your farm ecosystem.

  • Understand the basics of managing a farm ecosystem and how to use them on your farm to increase productivity and profitability.

  • Be more familiar with key practices used in sustainable farming systems.

Keep It: Entrepreneurship, Family Business Dynamics, and Managing Risk

This chapter of the book supports you in developing plans to keep your farm in business for a long time to come. You've worked hard to build it, make sure you have plans for long-term success. This is also where you think about food safety regulations and licensing, a key part of keeping your farm business operating safely. Your business development activities will focus primarily on food safety activity.

Business Development Activities:

  • Workshop: Food Safety From Field to Market (video, handout, slides)

  • On-Farm Readiness Review Demonstration Videos (playlist)

    • Agricultural Water (video)

    • Biological Soil Amendments of Animal Origin (video)

    • Sanitation (video)

    • Wildlife & Domesticated Animals (video)

    • Worker Health & Hygiene (video)

  • FamilyFarmed Food Safety Manual (instructions, example)

    • OPTIONAL: How to Develop A Farm Food Safety Plan (slides)

Additional Resources:

  • A Small Farmer’s Practical Guide to Food Safety (PDF)

If you read the whole chapter you will be able to:

  • Understand and assess new business opportunities.

  • Start developing plans for how your business will grow.

  • Better understand legal business structures for your farm.

  • Outline roles for family in your farm business, if you so choose.

  • Understand distinctions between estate plans and succession plans and begin to evaluate your farm in these ways.

  • Know basic food safety regulations and requirements.

  • Understand the importance of risk management and begin to take steps to address risk on your farm.

Feeling lost?

No worries. Just schedule a check-in with shiny.