Ag Biz Program Puts Young, Beginning, and Small Farmers Ahead of the Game

Ag Biz Program Puts Young, Beginning, and Small Farmers Ahead of the Game

Carolina Farm Credit prides itself on offering a wide selection of educational programs and a vast library of online resources geared toward financial and business literacy. Whether you are a customer-member of the cooperative or not, access is open, and you’re invited to put the resources to work for you and your farm operation.

Educational Programs

“When we plan educational offerings, we are always thinking about our young, beginning, and small farmers (YBS). We realize they may not be in a position to borrow money as they are getting started but we want to be able to offer expertise and resources to help them make strong business decisions early on,” says Maggie Hamm, Carolina Farm Credit senior vice president and chief marketing officer. “Our goal is to provide resources as they begin to make decisions about their farms.”

  • Ag Biz Basics is a virtual, online course that teaches financial and business planning, budgeting, and other farm financial management topics essential to getting a farm up and running and making it a success. In four modules that are completed at a participant’s own pace and schedule, the program provides a broad view of topics such as financial statements and business planning.

“Ag Biz Basics is a great option for somebody who is just getting started with their farming venture,” says Jocelyn Roten, Carolina Farm Credit marketing specialist. “Maybe they have a few ideas in their head of what kind of farm they want, what they may want to produce, and what their farm goals may be.” Ag Biz Basics helps them refine what they wish to do and move forward.

  • Ag Biz Planner, also an online course, consists of 10 modules that take a deeper dive into critical components of your farm’s financial success, including income statements, cash flow projections, balance sheets, personal financial management, and strategic business planning. Consider this an opportunity to not only learn and improve important financial management skills but a chance to be guided through developing your own farm business plan. Not only is a plan an essential component for success, it’s also an important document when seeking a loan.

“Ag Biz Planner is ideal for someone who may be a year or so into farming, who wants to focus more on planning out their set goals,” explains Jocelyn. “Even if you’re a first, second, or third generation farmer, this course can really help set the stage and prepare you for the future. The true value of Ag Biz Planner is that it offers farmers a better understanding of the financial and management side of farming. Putting pen to paper helps with goal setting and developing a strong business plan.”

Added Bonuses

Because farming can be a solitary venture, Carolina Farm Credit enhances these learning opportunities with a few bonuses that are popular with participants:

A kick-off webinar introduces participants to the program and to Dr. David Kohl, professor emeritus, Virginia Tech, who created the program.

A mentor lender from the Carolina Farm Credit branch in the area in which the participant resides is paired with the participant to help guide them through the class and answer questions. It’s a chance to form a relationship with someone who is quite involved with the agricultural community and can serve as a resource, which can be quite helpful for someone starting out.

A networking conference at the end of the program brings together participants for a two-day conference in Raleigh where they get to meet Dr. Kohl along with other guest speakers. “Participants always like to meet Dr. Kohl, the creator of the courses and a wealth of knowledge,” says Jocelyn.

Because Carolina Farm Credit works in conjunction with Farm Credit of the Virginias, Colonial Farm Credit, and the other two Farm Credits in North Carolina, AgCarolina and Cape Fear, participants from those regions are in attendance. “It’s a really good networking conference and a great way for all of our participants to join together,” says Jocelyn. “They get to meet and learn from other producers from across North Carolina and surrounding states.” Ideas and knowledge are exchanged, and relationships are formed that enhance participants’ networks.

“Our lenders have a great deal of expertise, and we want to share what they’ve learned through working with other farmers. We know farmers have access to a variety of commodity and production information, and we are most concerned with building their business and financial management skills. If we can help with that piece, we feel we are helping set those young, beginning, and small farmers up for success for the long run,” says Maggie.

Applications Open to All

“Our educational programs are just another way that Carolina Farm Credit helps support agriculture and our local communities. We offer our educational programs at no cost. Any person interested can apply or access them, whether they’re a member or not. We’ve often heard of the great impact that our programs have had on those who have participated. We’re happy to continue to make a difference in our communities with our educational programs,” shares Carolina Farm Credit CEO Vance Dalton.

Watch for the Ag Biz application period, which is usually during June and July each year. For more information about Carolina Farm Credit’s educational programs, check out the website under the educational programs section or ask your local Carolina Farm Credit branch.

In part 2 of this series on Carolina Farm Credit’s educational programs and online resources, we share information on the Agricultural Leadership Institute, Youth Personal Finance Resources (often used by teachers, 4-H, FFA, and Extension) and various online resources in the Carolina Farm Credit “library.”

By Leah Chester-Davis