On January 8th and 9th farmers gathered at the Burnsville Town Center to spend two days on finances in our yearly Holistic Financial Planning workshop! This is an area most farm businesses tend to avoid, instead preferring to drool over seed catalogs for the upcoming season. However, these farmers took the time to listen to Cree Bradley, of Worksong Services and Chelsea Morning Farm, to learn not only about financial decision making and management, but also about how to establish these systems within a values based farm system. Cree Bradley has served in a variety of positions with sustainable food and farming work throughout the Midwest. Over a 15-year period, she has organized programs with the Sustainable Farming Association, Institute for a Sustainable Future, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, and the Land Stewardship Project. She has also served in contracted roles providing Holistic Management trainings in IL, WI, SD and MN. Cree shared her own personal connection to holistic financial planning on her farm, starting from scratch with her own farm and learning through some difficult times what it took to do realistic and practical financial planning. Students appreciated her skill, “ I appreciated Cree explaining personal experiences relevant to each topic. She is engaging and well educated on this Holistic Financial Planning System.”
Our participants came from all over WNC and have been farming from 1 season to a lifetime. Molly Lebude, a farmer from Saluda, shared these thoughts after the workshop, “ (I’ve been working on my plan) at least a little every night. It’s….gruelling and detailed and some nights I find myself putting it off, but it is oh so very incredibly helpful. I am so grateful to have attended and I am looking forward to seeing how it affects this first year using it – in farm and family finances, labor, crop choices – all around! My only regret is not getting the hang of this method 10 years ago! 🙂 I am firmly convinced it will produce minor miracles, or at least better decisions.” Molly is now in her 11th year of raising seasonal greens, vegetables, asparagus, garlic, sweet potatoes, blueberries, and shiitake and oyster mushrooms. They are located in Saluda, and sell at tailgate markets and wholesale quantities to several fine local restaurants and farm stands, and are a member of a multi-farm CSA run in Tryon at the Manna Cabanna.
The workshop is designed to help farmers connect decision making to finances and to empower them to plan, monitor, adjust and record in order to successfully cash flow their farm business all year. Farming is particularly challenging due to the seasonal nature of income and Cree’s practical advice about how to monitor and plan income and expenses fits with farming. She also teaches a path towards planning profit, health care and retirement, many things farms do not often do.
Even though by the end of day two, everyone is saturated with finances, many take a deep breath and fill out the plan for the upcoming season. In the final reviews, this was shared, “ Thank you, thank you, thank you for this opportunity to learn. I feel like a huge burden off our back by having tools for financial planning rather than trying to piece it together overtime by myself. I am months, maybe years ahead now.”
Look for this workshop again next winter, 2019! Photo: Cree Bradley, Chelsea Morning Farm