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Minding Your Business

Analyze this!

Programhelps farmers take close look at their operation and develop an effective action plan.

By Judie Steeves W

hether you’re a new grower, having financial difficulties or just want to operate your farm business more efficiently, the Farm Business Advisory Service will help you improve your bottom line, navigate your way through choppy waters and even guide you in succession planning. Less than two years ago,

administration of the program was taken over by the province and moved to Vernon from Winnipeg for B.C. farmers.

Lean economic times are ideal times for farmers to make use of such a program that helps them access basic financial analysis of their operation and customized business planning services, said Clint Ellison, agri-food business development specialist, sustainable agriculture management branch with the provincial ministry of agriculture. “Efficiencies can be helpful to anyone, not just new farmers or troubled ones. There’s also the question of succession planning and financing,” he pointed out.

“The idea is it’s business planning support. Ideally, if beginning farmers get a good grounding, they’ll be successful farmers,” he added. The assessment can point out the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the farm business and other parts of the assessment may indicate that the farm operators have everything under control or have the ability internally to carry out the action plan developed from the self-

26 assessment, he explained.

More than 50 farmers in B.C. have enrolled in the program since B.C. began delivering it 18 months ago, in both Tier 1 and Tier 2.

The program begins with a self- assessment of the farm operation which allows the farmer to measure current business practices and identify information, training and consulting services they could use to improve. That self-assessment process results in development of a farm action plan, and that’s the first step toward accessing program funding. A workbook called Taking Stock is part of that first step, along with a toll- free number and information sessions. Once the Farm Action Plan is completed, farmers can apply for Farm Business Advisory Services, either Tier 1, which is a basic farm financial assessment; or Tier 2, which is specialized farm business planning in the areas of business or marketing strategies, production economics, human resources, financial management, succession planning, business structure, risk assessment or value-added ventures.

For some, the application process itself is a valuable tool, and some even found that alone was adequate to set them on the right track.

Involvement in the program can be helpful in discussions with the lender or insurance company as well as simply helping the farm operator. It’s not always easy to see the big picture when you’re busy taking care of the day-to-day needs of the farming operation, and this program helps farmers to set out the facts in an orderly way.

For details of the program, go to and click on Farm Business Advisory Services Program.

Included on the website is a case study of a blueberry farm, which illustrates the process, and also the

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Fall 2011

benefits of completing a financial review through the program.

It describes a fictitious small developing blueberry farm on the Lower Mainland, and it shows how a Tier 1 financial assessment is done on that operation, then how a Tier 2 business strategy analysis follows.

It shows the kind of information you can uncover and also the process. To view that case study and to learn more about the program, go to the website.

Or, to get more information or become involved in the program you can e-mail: or call the ministry office at: 250-260-3000.

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