The third day of Armed To Farm began with more class time. We began by covering one of the ways to fund a farm, namely Farm Credit. It works similarly to a credit union. They offer credit, in the form of the Growing Forward program, to young and beginning farmers. They encourage any new customer to come prepared with their credit report, information on all credit cards. a business plan, a balance sheet, and an income statement. The last three may seem daunting, but NCAT provides assistance to farmers in the form of tutorials and worksheets for free, as well as publications for a very small fee. (Credit reports can be obtained for free.) The Farm Credit presenter also explained that they look for the following when deciding whether to finance customers:
At this point, let me just pause to mention that we are not attorneys. We are not offering advice of any kind (simply passing on information we received during Armed To Farm). If you have legal questions, please consult an attorney.
The next presenter was an attorney with the National Ag Law Center. The first topic was Business Structures. In general Sole Proprietorships and General Partnerships are the most risky as they provide no liability protection to the owners. If your business is held liable for something, you as the owner are held liable and all assets (business and personal) are at risk. The business structure providing the most liability protection is the Limited Liability Corporation (LLC). It's important to separate personal and business accounts and assets. Another topic covered was Premises Liability, described here. Also covered in that link was the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine (i.e. neighborhood kids see your tractor/pond by the road and decide to play on it). There were also brief discussions on various signs around your property and their actual usefulness, such as: agritourism, no trespassing, and warning. The last bit of advice we received was to be exceptionally careful about operating petting zoos, as they present all sorts of liability issues (once again, consult an attorney).
We briefly covered Record Keeping. More information can be found here.
The final classroom topic of the day was Soil Health. Soil tests, such as the Archuleta Slake Test, can be used to determine how much structure (roots, and whatnot) are holding the soil together, which is an indicator of soil health. Soil health can be improved by planting diverse crops and rotating those crops. This helps replenish nutrients in the soil (e.g. legumes trap nitrogen) and break the life cycle of pests. For those not familiar with the Dust Bowl of the 1930's, it was caused by excessive plowing of virgin topsoil, causing an ecological disaster. Modern farming techniques use several techniques to keep topsoil in place, such as: mulch, cover crops, and tall grass grazing.
After all that classroom time, we were ready for another field trip! We traveled to Blue Yonder Organic Farm. Sara Creech, a fellow Air Force veteran and founding member of Farmer Veteran Coalition of Indiana, runs and owns Blue Yonder. As her website states:
The farm produces a wide variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, eggs, and honey using organic methods.
Sara was gracious enough to host the Armed To Farm crew for an evening cookout and gave us a tour of her impressive farm.
Not shown in the pictures is Blue Yonder's mushroom cultivation area. We had the pleasure to attend a mushroom cultivation training for veterans last year, organized by Sara. A brief introduction can be found here; we used the plug spawn. Perhaps in a later blog we'll cover mushroom cultivation in greater detail.
While at Sara's farm we also heard a presentation on the programs offered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), but that will have to wait until our next post!
Part 2 of Armed to Farm began with a training on farm planning and marketing. For a business to be successful, you have to understand exactly what it is you want the business to do. To that end, we used worksheets to ask questions like:
After visiting the Student Farm, the group traveled to Crowl Cattle Farm. (Sorry, no pictures; just a business card.)
The family farm is run by Cadel and Rebecca Crowl (great hosts; Cadel is also a veteran). They focus on producing high quality beef. They also showed us the NRCS (conservation) improvements they've done to improve the health of their cattle. Record keeping has helped them to accurately determine the most productive mama cows, which in some cases was not what they expected. We got to see their [poop] mountain from the cattle, and how they are planning on turning something they used to give away into sellable compost! We also got to visit their herd in a nearby rented pasture.
In our next blog, we'll cover financing a farm and record keeping, law as is applies to farms, and visit Blue Yonder Organic Farm.
It's been a busy month at Four Flags Farm! As an Air Force veteran, Ben applied and was accepted to a veteran farming training in Crawfordsville, IN, called Armed to Farm, which is provided by NCAT. This training is an opportunity for military veterans to learn about sustainable and organic agriculture, including running a farm business. It was a great experience!
There were a wide variety of veterans in attendance, representing most branches of the military, about equal amount male/female, various ages from late twenties to late sixties, some brought spouses, etc. Veterans got the chance to learn from presenters from several government agencies, currently practicing farmers, and take numerous trips to visit farms.
First the veterans started with a little light reading...
Just kidding! This was the reference material that was provided to the veterans that they can use once they get home.
After introductions, the group learned about the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC). This is a great organization that focuses on helping military veterans who are interested in agriculture. It provides resources for marketing (through Homegrown By Heroes), farming, and business. Additionally, they can provide some financial assistance through their FVC fellowship. Ben is both a member of FVC Indiana and a recipient of the FVC fellowship (gift card to Tractor Supply Co.).
The training then covered several programs offered by the USDA. These programs covered:
After lunch, we went on the road to visit Four Seasons. The market is a venture by four farmer families to provide local food to the Crawfordsville area year round, instead of only during summer. As their website states:
The market offers beef, pork, lamb, chickens, eggs, coffee, homemade heat and serve meals, honey, syrup, and a variety of homemade baked goods.
While at Four Seasons, we discussed how they chose their location, their target customers, their business model, local advertising, division of responsibilities of the owners, as well as a couple of "oh poop" moments, such as when freezers break down and product is lost.
Our final destination was Shannon Family Farms, one of the four farms that runs Four Seasons. Their family farm is a diversified livestock farm raising pork, beef, chicken, and eggs. They are nestled on a beautiful 9 acre farm, including a barn from the late 1800's.
That's it for this post; hope you liked it. Keep checking back for Part 2, when we discuss more classroom topics, the Purdue Student Farm, and Crowl Cattle Farm.
We are Four Flags Farm, Armonda & Ben Riggs!