The Daily Dirt

Sustainable businesses are essential to healthy farms

We often picture farmers out in the field – on their tractors, weeding, harvesting, planting seeds, and packing their produce for market – but farmers are small business owners too.

And like any small business owner, they have to fill nearly every role in a business. Farmers are also marketing departments, salespeople, human resources directors, delivery drivers, bookkeepers, financial managers, accountants, and CEOs.

Running a small business isn’t easy, especially when you’re running one that’s notorious for its razor-thin profit margins and is at the mercy of unpredictable weather and fluctuating markets. On top of  this is decades of state and federal policy designed to benefit large conventional farming operations and stamp out smaller farmers. Given all of these compounding factors working against our small farmers, it’s near miraculous that any of them succeed at all.

Georgia Organics knows that for our small farmers to be successful, they need to not only be experts at growing, they need have the same skills and knowledge that any other small business owner needs. It’s the business version of “eating your vegetables.”

“No one is hungry to learn about Excel,” Wall said. “But Georgia Organics needs to focus on business education because that’s what farmers need to prosper.”*

Image result for quickbooksGeorgia Organics works with experts in the field to provide Quickbooks training, business planning crash courses, HR training, record-keeping, marketing, and financial management classes for farmers attending our annual conference. Our website holds a cache of resources for the small business owner, and our Director of Farmer Services Michael Wall is literally on-call to answer farmers’ questions about better business practices.

And fortunately for farmers, the detailed record-keeping required for organic certification and food safety planning doubles as a better business practice.

“The record-keeping you need for organic certification is extensive,” says Rahul Anand of Snapfinger Farm. “But the things organic certification requires, like daily field logs, are good business practices, and having the certification paperwork to fill out every year keeps you accountable.”

But the task of filling out Quickbooks spreadsheets and logging financial records seems daunting for farmers, especially after long days of back-breaking work in the field.

“Nobody likes doing it,” noted Michael Wall, “but healthy habits around record-keeping helps a farmer with everything from marketing to business planning to food safety plans. All of this lays the groundwork for a farm to grow and handle the bumps and bruises that come with running a farm.”

Are you a farmer who wants to learn more about better business practices? Check our our business and marketing resource pages here and here.

*Georgia Organics believes that Excel is a wonderful program that has benefited our society in innumerable ways.

From now through the end of December, we’ll be writing about and spotlighting our farmers and the work of our farmer services team. We hope you keep reading, and to invest in our farmer services efforts please click here to contribute $100, $50, $25 or any amount that’s meaningful to you.

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