Business Planning can be one of the most important and useful exercises involved in the development of new farms. Not only is this process a key to success in helping to understand and articulate what the farm enterprise will look like, it is also important in building a farm development plan that is economically sustainable. It can also be essential in obtaining the funding to purchase land, equipment, and other necessary resources from lending institutions, investors, or grantmaking agencies. The following resources offer a number of excellent FREE publications and tools to help you on your way.
This page is divided into two sections: DEVELOPING A FARM BUSINESS PLAN and ENTERPRISE BUDGETING. The information provided in the links will explain what these are, why they are important and the difference between them. Also, please check out the comprehensive article ‘Farm Products, What to Charge: Marketing, Price, Calculating Costs, Strategy and Much More’ which gives a broad overview of many of the topics covered here.
For each, you may also need specific information on costs and revenues. A number of the links will provide this information, but there is also a resource at the very bottom of the page called the Martindale Center Reference Desk that links to many, many tools and information sources for finding and calculating costs as well as other useful economic information.
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DEVELOPING A FARM BUSINESS PLAN
A business plan is a decision making tool that takes the form of a formal document stating your business goals, why you think you can achieve them, and laying out your plan for doing so.
- The New England Small Farms Institute’s Growing New Farmers Program helps to answer the question: ‘Do I need a Business Plan for my Farm?’ by providing advice through a number of free publication resources related to this question at: http://www.smallfarm.org/main/for_new_farmers/resources_by_topic/business_planning/
- Free Business Planning from the University of Minnesota. “AgPlan,” designed specifically for farms and ag businesses, provides guidance in writing your business plan, offers the option of collaborating with one or more advisors, and allows you to save your planning work online (or print it out). Online software at http://agplan.umn.edu/
- And the USDA National Agricultural Library’s Rural Information Center offers Small Farm Funding Resources which include documents which assist in the development of a Farm Business Plan at: http://www.nal.usda.gov/ric/ricpubs/small_farm_funding.htm
- Building a Sustainable Business: A Guide to Developing a Business Plan for Farms and Rural Businesses is a fantastic, 280 page web publication put out by the the Minnesota institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA). Print copies are available for $17.
- Building a Business Plan for Your Farm: Important First Steps is a 20 page internet publication prepared by Rodney Jones for the 2003 Risk and Profit Summer Conference in Manhattan Kansas. It gives a good overview of how to get started.
- North Carolina State University has an Organic Farm Business Planning Page which features a number of publications and links related to financial planing for organic farmers. Some are specific to North Carolina, but many or not.
- The National Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA) publishes a short online guide to Agricultural Business Planning Templates and Resources which provides links to ‘General Ag. Business Planning Resources’; ‘Internet and Print Resources’; ‘Personal Assistance’; ‘Software Resources’; and ‘Training Courses’. ATTRA also provides a Marketing. Business, and Risk Management Page which contains a number of publications on business planning and other important financial aspects of the farm enterprise.
- Beginning Farmer and Rancher Resources is an excellent blog site which offers comprehensive resources on Bookkeeping and Other Basics; Cash Flow Budgeting and Managing Debt; Small Farm and Ranch Income Taxes, and more. This blog is packed with useful information.
- The U.S. Small Business Association has a number of programs and resources to help small businesses grow and succeed. They are a national organization with a number of local offices.
- Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business Educational Resources provide a number of useful resources and tools for learning about planning food and farming businesses. Also see Purdue’s Strategic Business Planning for Commercial Producers Page.
- Steve Richards from Cornell University has developed an excellent 60 page workbook called Starting an Ag-Business? A Pre-Planning Guide with comprehensive business planning information and worksheets.
- The New York Beginning Farmers Project has a Web Page Dedicated to Business Planning – from simple to complex – with templates, forms, examples, and guides.
- Agricultural Marketing, a project of the Penn State College of Agricultural Science has a Page Listing Business Planning Publications and Resources.
- Penn State Cooperative Extension also has a Farm Business Website with lots of valuable information and tools for developing your business plan, and publishes a brochure called Developing a Business Plan.
- National Crop Insurance Services has a Powerpoint Presentation on Farm Business Planning.
Enterprise budgets project costs and returns for a particular farm production practice. You can use enterprise budgets to make smart business management decisions, and to help you develop a viable business plan.
- Using Enterprise Budgets in Farm Financial Planning from Oklahoma Cooperative Extension provides an overview of enterprise budgeting.
- Making Decisions with Enterprise Budgets is another basic overview published by Texas A&M.
- Enterprise Budgeting is another overview from Colorado State University.
- Budgets: Their Use in Farm Management describes budgeting tools for farm decision making.
- The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center has a great Enterprise Budgeting Page with links to a number of useful resources including enterprise budgets for specific crops and livestock, enterprise budgets for organic farming, and enterprise budgets for vegetable farms. They also have a really useful list of Enterprise Budgeting Tools.
- The University of Georgia has Interactive Enterprise Budgets for crops, livestock, and poultry. You can also access information on costs and returns, printed budgets, computer spreadsheet budgets, and more HERE.
- ATTRA has a long resource list called Enterprise Budgets and Production Costs for Organic Production which provides enterprise budgeting information for a number of different agricultural products.
- Virginia Tech has an Enterprise Budget Page with budgets for a number of crops, and links to other information about enterprise budgets.
- The University of Florida Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Page has Enterprise Budgets for a Number of Vegetable Crops.
- The University of Maryland provides Updated Enterprise Budgets for Crops.
- The Kansas Rural Center Has Organic Enterprise Budgets.
- The Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems at UW-Madison has an Enterprise Budget for Dairy Sheep.
- Ohio State University has Enterprise Budgets for a Number of Different Crops and Livestock.
- Virginia Cooperative Extension has Enterprise Budgets for Crops and Livestock.
- DocStoc has a Swine Farm Enterprise Budget Calculator.
- The University of Wisconsin Center for Dairy Profitability has Enterprise Budgets for Crops and Livestock.
- North Carolina State has Enterprise Budgets for Crops, Vegetables, Livestock, Forage, and Ornamentals.
- The University of Delaware has Enterprise Budgets for Selected Crops.
- Clemson University has Enterprise Budgets for Crops, Melons, Vegetables, Livestock, Forages, and Specialty Crops.
- Iowa State has Organic Crop Production Enterprise Budgets and Information.
To Find More Information on Business Planning, Enterprise Budgets, Costs and Revenues, and Other Farm Economic Information:
The Martindale Center Reference Desk has an Absolutely Amazing List of Links to: Calculators, Applets, Spreadsheets, Courses, Manuals, Handbooks, Simulations, Animations, Videos, etc. for 1) Farm Management, Ranch Management, Budgets, Costs, Financial Performance, Income Statements, Land Purchase, Marketing, Sales, Profit, etc.; 2) Crop & Vegetable Costs, Budget, Finance, Marketing, Insurance, etc.; 3) Decision Tools, Crop Tools, Agronomy Tools for Multiple Crops Production, Costs, Harvesting, etc.; 4) Specific Crops: Production, Costs, Harvesting, etc.; 5) Cattle/Beef Costs, Budget, Economics, Price, Profits; 6) Dairy Cattle Analysis, Costs, Budget, Business, Management, etc.; 7) Milk Production, Income, Price, Mastitis, etc.; 8) Goat Costs, Budget, Profit; 9) Pig/Swine Budget, Profit, Finishing Costs, Feed Costs; 10) Poultry Budget, Costs, Profit, Layer & Broiler, etc.; 11) Sheep Budget, Costs, Profit. Also find costs for Machinery, Seed, Irrigation, Fencing, Feed, and much more HERE. As of January 2011, the Center has over 23,885 Calculators & Spreadsheets, over 3,865 Courses, Lectures, Manuals, Handbooks, & 1,000′s of Movies, Videos, Simulations & Animations.