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Profit Teams

Announcing the Second Cohort of Profit Teams

The Northeast Beginning Farmer Project in partnership with New York FarmNet are excited to announce the successful farms for the second round of our Beginning Farmer Profit Team Program. We had another competitive round of applications but these farms were selected as the best: Blue Spoon Farm (Groton), Cedar Hedge Farm (Lowville), Green Shepherd Farm (Bovina), Common Thread CSA (Madison), Greyrock Farm (Cazenovia), Polestar Farm (Mecklenburg, White Pine Community Farm (Wingdale), Dutch Barn Farm (Fort Plain), Mariaville Mushroom Men (Schenectady), Good Fight Herb Co. (Germantown), and Farmhand Flowers (Cobleskill). These farms vary widely in shape, size, and product mix. Everything from veggies and livestock, to mushrooms, herbs, and flowers.

Matt Volz, Greyrock Farm, one of our new Profit Team particpants

Matt Volz, Greyrock Farm, one of our new Profit Team particpants

The Beginning Farmer Profit Team Program seeks to improve the long-term success of these farms by providing customized, one-on-one guidance from farm professionals (financial, production, legal, marketing, etc.) over an 18-mo to 2-year period. Not only will these farms get the personalized guidance of selected advisors, but we also want to help them develop new skills to grow their capacity as leaders. Participants in the program will attend an annual intensive leadership training designed to grow the network of skilled farmers and help them transfer their skills to new farmers just entering the field. This project is funded by the New York Farm Viability Institute and the USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. We will be accepting applications for the 3rd and final round of the program in February 2016.

Announcing the First Cohort of Profit Teams

The Northeast Beginning Farmer Project in partnership with New York FarmNet is happy to announce the first round of successful candidates to our Advanced Beginning Farmer Profit Teams. Selection for this program was competitive and we received a lot of great applications but our review team picked these 12 farms for participation in the first round: Fruition Seeds, Sparrow Bush Farm, Van Noble Farm, Lineage Farm, Main St. Farms, Cross Island Farm, Hartway Farm, New Moon Farms, Climbing Tree Farm, Hartwood Farm, Fruit of the Fungi, and Whipple Brothers Farm. These farms represent a wide variety of farm sizes, crop types, business models, and regions across the state. This initiative seeks to improve the long-term success of these farms by providing customized, one-on-one guidance from farm professionals (financial, production, legal, marketing, etc.) over an 18-mo to 2-year period. Not only will these farms get the personalized guidance of selected advisors, but we also want to help them develop new skills to grow their capacity as leaders. Participants in this program will attend an annual intensive leadership training designed to grow the network of skilled farmers and help them transfer their skills to new farmers just entering the field. This project is funded by the New York Farm Viability Institute and the USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. We will be accepting applications for the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the program in September 2015 and February 2016, respectively.

Program Overview

Are you a beginning farmer in New York state who has been farming for at least three years? Is the farm business you manage at a crossroads, needing to improve efficiency, scale up, or make other major changes to achieve long-term viability? Do you need some decision support to improve profitability of the farm business after 3-9 years of running it? Farmers at this stage are often faced with critical decisions that determine the long-term viability of their operation.

You don’t need to face these decisions alone. You may be eligible to receive support for a New Farmer Profit Team. This initiative seeks to improve the long-term success of advanced beginning farmers by providing selected farmers with customized, one-on-one guidance from farm professionals (financial, production, legal, marketing, etc) over an 18-mo to 2-year period. These New Farmer Profit Teams are modeled on Dairy Profit Teams, which have a track record of improving productivity, profitability, and efficiency of the participating farms.

You can choose who you’d like to advise you, or seek assistance in selecting appropriate professionals. In practice, each profit team could consist of just one person acting as a mentor or coach, or a team of professionals representing different areas of expertise, working together to advise a farmer. The project has up to $2000 available per farm to pay these advisors and requires a 20% match from the farmer.

While improving farm profitability is one critical measure of the success of this project, other desired impacts include:
•    Improved income-generating capacity of farm (due to infrastructure or labor investment)
•    Improved crop or herd health
•    Improved management of farm natural and human resources
•    Refined marketing strategies
•    Reduced stress of farm staff
•    Enhanced well-being of farmer

Not only will you have the personalized guidance of your selected advisors, but we also want to help you develop new skills to grow your capacity as a leader. Participants in this project will attend an annual intensive 2-3-day leadership training designed to grow the network of skilled farmers and help them transfer their skills to new farmers just entering the field.
If this sounds like it would be helpful, please apply for a New Farmer Profit Team. The application deadline is April 1, and in this first round, only 10 farms will be chosen. A second round of applicants will be accepted in Fall 2015.

This project is a collaboration of the Cornell Small Farms Program, NY Farm Viability Institute, and NY FarmNet, made possible with funding from NYFVI and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP).

APPLICATION CRITERIA
We are targeting farmers in NY who have been managing their own operation for 3-9 years and had gross sales of over $10,000 in the previous year. They can be engaged in the production and sale of any food, fiber, or ornamental agricultural crop.

Within this broad target audience, priority will be given to applicants who demonstrate the following characteristics:
•    Have identified goals for the farm business
•    Have earnest interest in providing mentorship for new farmers
•    Present a strong case for needing consulting support (facing major farm decision, whether opportunity or crisis)
•    Demonstrate progress over last few years in terms of business growth or refinement
•    Have implemented on-farm record keeping for both financial and production
•    Demonstrate engagement in their farm community
•    Provide the name of at least one reference who can vouch for the farmer’s character and openness to receiving feedback and implementing changes

SMALL FARMS PROGRAM COMMITMENTS
For each of the farms we accept into this program, we will offer the following services:
1.    Assessment: a one-on-one meeting, approx. 2-3 hrs in duration, with project staff (via phone, Skype, or in person, depending on the farm’s location) to review current and past financial records, identify potential barriers to long-term success, discuss farmer’s goals, and get a sense of what kind of assistance will be most beneficial to the farmer.
2.    Write up an agreement for farmer to sign, laying out what we will agree to provide, and what they commit to (including sticking with this process for at least 18 mos, attending annual 2-3 day meeting, and paying 20% of the advisors’ fee)
3.    Assist in matching the farmer with 1-5 service providers who will meet (in person or via video/webinar/phone) with the farmer to help them work on identified issues
4.    Reimburse the farmer quarterly for 80% of advisors’ fees (up to $2000), after the farmer submits a progress report. Farmer will pay advisors the remaining 20%.
5.    Provide annual 2-3-day leadership summit in central NY for participating farmers. All expenses aside from travel to the training will be covered.
6.    The Profit Teams will conclude their work at each farm by mutual agreement of farmer and advisors, or when funds are exhausted, whichever comes first. Advisors will provide each farm and project staff with a closing report documenting changes implemented on the farm and impacts resulting from those changes.

PARTICIPANT COMMITMENTS
Participation in this program requires a willingness to provide advisors with detailed information on the farm’s operations, and an open mind toward making changes based on advisors’ recommendations. Participants will only be accepted into this program if they commit in writing to:
1)    Actively participate in the process for at least 18 mos. This means making time to meet with advisors a priority, despite busy schedules, and also sharing all farm records openly with Profit Team members
2)    Attend the annual 2-3 day training program in central NY. Participants will need to cover travel to the event, but all expenses once there will be covered.
3)    Pay 20% of advisors’ fees. The project will cover 80%, up to $2000 in advisors’ fees
4)    Be open to making changes suggested by advisors
5)    After 1 year of participation in this program, commit to mentoring one or more beginning farmers during the second year
6)    Provide a final report documenting farm-level impacts of the project


Interested in Participating?

The first round of New Farmer Profit Teams is closed but we will be accepting another round of applicants in September 2015 and again in February 2016. Announcements will be made via our regular E-news updates. If you have not already done so, you can sign up for these here.