Good Fruit Grower

December 2012

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S ee a video of Kevin Moore discussing this topic on the Good Fruit Grower Web site at Where the parents do share that information, it helps the students understand how well the farm could support new debt and evaluate how much of a financial drain that would be. Developing a written farm plan is a major part of the "Returning to the Farm" course. Older generations tend to have pieces of a plan (particularly as bankers nowadays are requiring updated financial statements each year), but very few have what Moore considers to be a complete business plan that includes goals and a vision for the future. They have a production plan in their heads, but they might not have written it down. It's the forward- looking part that tends to be missing," he said. "Farmers and producers enjoy the producing part of things, but the planning part is a little more mundane— not as much fun," he said. "It's not something a lot of farmers do on their own." During the class, the students and families work on a business plan and try to develop a mission statement or something that describes the long-term mission of the farm. Whether it's planned for or not, farm succession will happen eventually when the older generation passes away. Moore said he's trying to help families be more proactive and develop a plan to increase the likelihood of a successful outcome. "We give them the tools and help them through the process of trying to plan for the future, rather than just let the future happen to them." Work elsewhere Part of the plan might be for the student to work else- where for a time before returning to the farm. Parents want their children to love and value the fact that they're working on the farm, and sometimes having them go out and try an off-farm job to get a feel for what their life would be if they didn't go back to the farm accomplishes that, he said. It might also make them less likely to give up too soon when things aren't going well on the farm. "If they've had the experience of having a job that's not in farming, sometimes it makes them value the good times and the bad times when they're farming," he said. "For that reason alone, I think it's valuable." In addition, a few years of drawing a salary off the farm help a young person just coming out of college to build equity, improve their own financial situation, and have the ability to go to the bank for a loan. In addition, experience in the business world can help them later when they're managing the farm. Some students who go through the "Returning to the Farm" class decide not to go back. "I don't measure success of the class on how many kids go back," Moore said. "The idea is to help them make the best decision to ensure the success of the farm." There are valid reasons why students decide not to go back to the farm or delay going back, he said. They might question whether the farm can generate the income that would be required, or they might feel there's too much debt and involving more family members would put the business in financial peril. Some might have been considering going back to the farm just because their parents expected them to. Some- times there's pressure from the community, as rural com- munities need farms and need young people to support their schools and businesses. The class gives families an opportunity to talk through some of these issues and might help students realize it's not what they want to do, especially if they don't share the same goals as their parents. "Sometimes, it's just a matter of deciding they're not going to get along well enough to make a go of it. We help them make the best decision and avoid a situation that would not be successful in the long run." • GOOD FRUIT GROWER DECEMBER 2012 13

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