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!
We are Four Flags Farm, Armonda & Ben Riggs!