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Planning for Sustainability Key to Profitable Farming

EVERETT, Wash. — Washington State University Snohomish County Extension is offering a 12-week “Cultivating Success: Agricultural Entrepreneurship and Farm Business Planning” course to help new and existing farmers gain skills in business planning and direct marketing. The course runs on Tuesday evenings starting January 17 through April 17 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at WSU Snohomish County Extension’s Cougar Auditorium in McCollum Park, 600 128th St. SE in Everett, Wash.

Puget Sound area farmers market shoppers can select from a variety of fresh foods. Photo by Kate Halstead/Washington State University. Click image to download high-resolution version.
Puget Sound area farmers market shoppers can select from a variety of fresh foods. Photo by Kate Halstead/Washington State University. Click image to download high-resolution version.

This year “Buying Local” is on many people’s lists of New Year’s resolutions. For farmers new and old, capturing a share of this new market is crucial to growth and longevity. However, entering, expanding and retaining new markets require a business-savvy approach to farming. Beginning farmers must look at their farm like any new business venture, while existing operations considering diversification or expansion must evaluate how changes can affect land, labor, capital, and family resources.

“Cultivating Success: Agricultural Entrepreneurship and Farm Business Planning” is an in-depth business-planning course that covers evaluating resources, planning and research, legal and management issues, marketing strategies, budgets and financial statements, along with how to cultivate money resources. According to WSU Snohomish County Extension Educator Andrew Corbin, “The value received from the speakers, networking, and resources helps farmers make smart business decisions.” Corbin highlighted a comment by a recent Cultivating Success graduate who said the course “saved me from making a $100,000 mistake.”

The course features a host of local guest speakers including bankers, business professionals, and successful farm owners with a special emphasis on the financial and legal issues unique to farm-based businesses. During the course, participants are assisted in developing a business plan they can literally take to the bank to finance a new enterprise or expand an existing farm-based business.

The course facilitator is Holly Thompson, a Stanwood Angus beef rancher and WSU graduate in animal science and agriculture economics. Well-versed in farm economics and current market trends, Thompson also facilitates Sustainable Small Acreage Farming & Ranching, the introduction to farming course in the Cultivating Success series, and has worked for Northwest Farm Credit Services as a loan officer.

Class size is limited to 20 farms and pre-paid registration is required. Cost for the twelve-week course is $275. To register, visit http://bit.ly/xyCfse to pay with a credit card, or download the form at http://bit.ly/AxEcff and mail with a check, or contact Karie Christensen at 425-357-6039 or christensen4@.wsu.edu.

For more information on the course, contact Andrew Corbin at 425-357-6012 or corbina@wsu.edu. For more information on the Cultivating Success program, visit www.cultivatingsuccess.org. The course is funded in part by a grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture as well as from Snohomish Conservation District.

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