Financial Records (BF 104)

Keeping and Analyzing Records to Track Your Profitability

What do you need to do to prepare for operating your business with sound financial information? Every business creates a great number of records in a variety of media. This course will concentrate on financial record keeping systems. Records can help determine the absolute and relative profitability of the farm business by identifying the strengths and weakness of the business. Only with these records can you see strong points to capitalize on and weak points requiring corrective action, taking decisive action to ensure the long-term success of your farm.

Target Audience

New farmers with 1-5 years of experience who are seeking to set up or improve their financial record keeping systems and learn to read their farm’s fiscal health through financial statements.

“Most valuable for me was learning about the various methods of measuring/tracking farm financials and understanding how each contributes to a better analysis of farm viability and better diagnosis of threats to long term profitability.” -Sarah L, Mt. Horeb, WI

Course Objectives

After completion of this course you will:

  • Appreciate why keeping farm financial records is essential.
  • Be familiar with how a financial record keeping system is organized and why it is beneficial for farmers.
  • Be able to set up a simple spread sheet (MS Excel) and software program (QuickBooks Pro) to start financial data collection.
  • Learn to calculate simple business ratios to assist in management decisions.
  • Discover requirements used by lending institutions to make loan determinations.


The bulk of the course happens on your own time, with discussions, readings, and assignments in MOODLE, our virtual classroom. To add to the experience, webinars will be woven into the online interface of the course to allow you to meet on a weekly basis to learn from outside presenters, ask questions, and collaborate with other participants and the instructor to address your farm issues in real time. If you miss one, they are always recorded and posted for later viewing.

You will also have access to one-on-one time with the instructors to help you with the logistics of setting up your record-keeping system.

Qualifying for Loans

If you are considering applying for a low-interest beginning farmer loan though the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), completing this course may help you qualify, if you meet other eligibility requirements. For farmers in NY who have already applied for an FSA loan and been told they need borrower training credit, all of our courses are pre-approved to provide you with this credit, if you complete all course requirements. For more information, visit the FSA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Loans website.


The course is taught by Bonnie Collins, accountant and Cornell Cooperative Extension Educator in Oneida County, NY, and Stephen Hadcock, Capital Area Agricultural and Horticultural Program, NY.


The 2014 offering of this course has already begun. The course will next be offered in Jan. 2015, specific dates TBD.

Course Outline

  • Week 1 – Recordkeeping – Maintaining accurate and timely financial information is a must to be successful in business. Appreciate why keeping farm records is essential. Learn about different record keeping formats, become familiar with how these systems are organized and why it is beneficial for farmers. Learn how to work with a qualified professional.
  • Week 2 – Preparing Financial Statements – Financial statements have a value that goes far beyond preparing tax returns or applying for loans. Learn how to prepare these essential documents for decision making, shareholders, and potential lenders.
  • Week 3 – Cash Flow Management – A healthy cash flow is essential to any business and creating a reliable cash flow system will help keep your business solvent and growing. Learn the difference between cash flow and profits. Be able to set up a simple spread sheet program to start collecting farm data reflecting cash flow.
  • Week 4 – Analyzing Your Financial Position - After you’ve gotten the basics of financial record keeping, financial statements, and cash flow down pat, you will learn to look deeper at the financial state of your business. Discover some of the most commonly used tools for financial analysis and money management.
  • Week 5 – Filling the Gaps – Getting Financing - Securing funds is as tough as ever. Learn how to estimate the amount of capital you will need and what financing options are available for your startup or continuing business.
  • Week 6 – Implication of Key Financial Decisions – Understanding the implications of key financial decisions will provide the basic components for a sound financial plan. Learn to review the marketplace and other potential business opportunities.

Cost and Registration

Fee for this course is $200. Registration will open in August 2014 for a Jan. 2015 offering. Sign up for the Small Farms e-newsletter or like us on Facebook to make sure you hear about the course when it’s open next.

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