Business and Production Management

The recommendations provided by the Virginia Farm to Table Plan on identify strategic areas for investment and education to promote a vibrant and sustainable future. The recommendations for improving business and production management are specifically outlined on pages 28 -29 of the Virginia Farm to Table Plan, but are are highlighted here for readers to understand the objective, benefits, possible partners and individual recommendations. Farming and food-based entrepreneurship are extremely competitive so sound business and production management are critical to long-term durable success.

Objective: To cultivate viable production and profit to assist the Commonwealth in meeting the needs of individual’s efforts at establishing and maintaining responsible businesses along the farm to fork value chain.

Benefits of recommendations: An increase in the number of farmers, farmer workers, and food-based enterprises producing and selling food to ensure a food secure and sustainable Virginia; Increased number of jobs that promotes resilient economic development around farming and food; Preserved farmland through successful land transitions from one generation to the next.

Possible partners: Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, Blue Ridge Permaculture Network, James Madison University, Local Agriculture Economic Development Offices, Local Food Hub, Rural SCALE, SustainFloyd, University of Virginia, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Virginia Foundation for Agricultural Innovation and Rural Sustainability, Virginia State University, Virginia Tech, Crossroads Resource Center, Small Business Development Centers, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services, and others.

Recommendations:

1.1 Develop a business planning educational program for farmers and food entrepreneurs to include:

a. strategic business planning and long-term goal setting;
b. tactical business planning keyed to developing, evaluating, and selecting alternatives that support the businesses’ long-term goals;
c. developing an information system to measure, monitor, and provide feedback on outcomes and progress towards goals;                              d. understanding the role of credit and financing in new ventures for farmers, entrepreneurs and processors;
e. provide on-going education, training, and technical assistance with special attention given to holistic business planning; whole farm planning; ecologically-sound farming systems; best management practices (BMPs); permaculture; and farm resource management planning for effective conservation of soil, water and other natural resources. Assess and identify gaps in current incentives and technical assistance programs supporting Virginia farmers in establishing and implementing whole-farm resource management and comprehensive conservation plans for improved water quality and natural resources conservation. Work with Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition, coordinated by Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to recruit, train, and establish the next generation of farmers and farm workers to provide quality food through ecologically sound and profitable production systems.

1.4 Establish a shared database to coordinate and support expansion of farm start-up education, beginning farmer training, mentorships, internship opportunities in the public and private sector from middle school and on up.

1.5 Provide and support farm transition and farmland protection educational programs and consultation services for all parties with a vested interest in the farm (e.g., family, first or second generation farmers, non-family land transfers, Purchase of Development Rights, and Land Conservation Fund).

1.6 Assess the need for teaching farms to provide hands-on training in basic farming techniques and ecologically-based farming systems; acquisition, use and maintenance of land, equipment, and machinery; and day-to-day business management.

1.7 Survey and ascertain basic infrastructure needs throughout Virginia (i.e., slaughter facilities, cooling and packing operations, community kitchens, canneries, mills and market point distribution systems).

1.8 Provide technical assistance and business incentives to assist with the development of regional aggregation and distribution sites throughout Virginia.

1.9 Assess and develop ways to improve access to affordable healthcare insurance for farmers and farm workers.

Building a Sustainable Business: A guide to developing a business plan for farms and rural businesses – a publication of the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture and USDA Sustainable Agriculture Network.

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