As much as we like to be independent and make our own decisions, farming and starting your own business requires you to develop a network of experts if you want to be successful long-term. If you can’t be the best at everything, surrounding yourself with the people who know how to get the job done well will help prepare you to take on any challenge.
Networking for New Farmers
We talked to our loan officers and some of our customers and they determined these are the top six people should you network with as a farmer:
1. A Mentor
With less than 1.5% of the population working in agriculture, it can be hard to find peers that relate to what you might be going through as a farmer. Luckily, many of the commodities that make our industry so diverse have already found ways to band together and share stories, resources, and even a helping hand. Think about your operation (or your dream operation) and determine what values are important to you. Perhaps you’re passionate about beef production in Delaware, dairy goats in Maryland, or running your Pennsylvania business in a sustainable way – there’s a group for it, you just have to look! Use these new connections to help set realistic goals and navigate challenges.
Not sure where to look? Joining agricultural organizations like Farm Bureau or Young Farmers and Ranchers can help you connect locally and nationally to meet like-minded farmers who can be your mentor.
2. Business Services Advisors – Accountant, Financial Advisor, Legal Counsel & Insurance Agent
When it comes to taking care of your financial health, you want to make sure you’re keeping tabs on your financial statements regularly so you know if your business is remaining profitable. Often, you’ll see many family operations divvying up these kinds of tasks, with one family member handling office tasks like bookkeeping, payroll, and paying bills. By finding an accountant to help you with your books, you add someone with experience in following bookkeeping best practices to your team, ensuring you’re prepared for tax season.
If you’re planning to register your operation as a business entity like a partnership or LLC, look for a lawyer or legal counsel that has ag experience. They’ll be able to help you determine the best business structure for your operation and provide advice on what kinds of insurance you may need in accordance with liability and local and state laws.
Pro Tip: Find an accountant that has experience in agriculture to save you time and help you find new ways to cut costs or take advantage of different tax programs.
DIY Farm Bookkeeping: If you’re heck-bent on doing it yourself, you, like many of our customers, may like using QuickBooks. We have a coupon code to make trying it a little cheaper too!
3. Your Local Extension Agent
No matter what you grow or raise, your local extension agent can help you navigate many business roadblocks through educational resources and research. Although exact programing varies by each office, their resources will revolve around agriculture and food systems, environmental and natural resources, youth development, and family and consumer sciences. With topics ranging from ag law to financial health, extension gives you the tools to build a strong business for free or for small registration fees.
How to find your local extension office: Google search for “YOUR COUNTY” “YOUR STATE” extension office, or use a local county extension finder tool like this one.
4. Loan Officer
We know what you’re thinking: “Farm Credit would say that I need a loan!” But hear us out. Capital is one of the biggest barriers to entry for our industry. Even if you’re not operating a thousand acres of grain, you still probably don’t have enough cash to purchase equipment, land and starting inventories, or supplies for a small farmstead. And that’s okay.
Taking out a loan to help start your business can be an important step for your operation’s growth. One thing that we look at from the loan officer’s perspective is whether or not your operation will cash flow enough to support this kind of liability. We want to make sure you are set up for success for the long-haul. Don’t get us wrong - we’re not the only one who can make loans for ag operations, but we encourage you to put your lender to each and every one of these tests so you can be sure that you’re getting a partner you trust and not just a banker with a dotted line to sign.
5. Farm Service Agency or FSA
Connecting with your local Farm Service Agency staff is important for any new farmer entering the field. The FSA strives to serve all farmers and agricultural partners through the delivery of effective programs and services. From acreage reporting for crop insurance to Farm Bill programs and conservation programs, FSA provides a number of tools to farmers from the United States Department of Agriculture.
If you’re uncertain about where your local FSA office is located, use this locator tool to find it!
6. Soil Conversation District
As you become a new landowner, learning about protecting your farming operation’s soil health will directly impact your land’s productivity. Learning from your local soil conservation district expert can help you to learn about new conservation practices, innovative technology, and natural resource programs to enhance your farming operation.
The mission of the Conservation District is to promote responsible management of natural resources and conservation efforts. They provide technical assistance and educational opportunities to preserve the use of land, water, and related natural resources.
One item to keep in mind, many Conservation Districts operate on a local level and under state law to fulfill location specific natural resource initiatives. To connect with your local Conservation District, click here.
As you begin your journey don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’d like to speak with a loan officer in your area, just let us know. Outside of financial services, our loan officers can help you create important business connections and refer you to companies with ag experience that will help you succeed. You don’t have to do it alone!