Published on 02/25/16

Workshop educates farmers about building and sustaining a lasting farm

By Clint Thompson

University of Georgia Cooperative Extension and UGA Small Business Development Center came together on Thursday to offer a new business workshop for farmers in south Georgia.

The conference was designed to better equip Georgia producers with the knowledge they need to design, build and sustain a lasting farm, said Laura Perry Johnson, associate dean for UGA Extension.

“The UGA Small Business Development Center has expertise in small business development. Extension has the expertise in the agricultural side of things. Together we were able to provide training for small business owners and farmers, which is better than what we could have done alone,” Johnson said.

Held in Tifton, the conference provided a glimpse into the various components of a successful farming operation, including sessions on forecasting cash flow and getting your food product to the market.

The workshop was extremely helpful for Carole Davis, the wife of a farmer in Terrell County, who related to the discussions about dealing with bank lenders. Her family farms 2,000 acres of cotton and peanuts. She realizes with her and her husband’s advancing age, the importance of preparing for life after farming. This workshop gave her the tools to help make those preparations a reality.

“If we don’t get our cash flow in the best shape, then we’re not going to be able to have the transition later on in the next few years. My husband works as hard as anybody, but at this time of our life, we need to start slowing down a little bit,” Davis said.

Kent Wolfe, director of the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, discussed agritourism and the potential additional cash flow it can provide. He cautioned farmers, though, that this venture isn’t for everyone.

“To be successful in agritourism or agritainment, producers need to realize it is much different than operating a farm. It is not for everybody, and it requires resources that may not be available to all farmers,” Wolfe said. “There are risks to every venture you go into, and it’s important for people to know that.”

Amanda Smith, a UGA Extension agricultural economist on the UGA Tifton Campus, approached risk management from a different perspective. With any successful farming operation, the ability to manage agricultural risk is key, Smith told farmers at the conference. She focused on teaching farmers how to manage all areas of risk and know when to pass it off.

“Farming is unpredictable. Whether you’re talking about commodity prices, Mother Nature or input costs, farmers never know what to expect from year to year,” Smith said. “For those farmers whom we talked with today, they need to realize they have options in managing agricultural risks.”

According to Johnson, the farm business education workshop is another example of how the university and UGA Extension work closely together to provide timely and pivotal information to Georgia farmers.

“All of our county Extension agents are helping producers in their counties make management decisions every day to increase profitability. When we work with the (UGA) Small Business Development Center, we can take that to another level, as far as the business management side of things,” Johnson said. “With crop prices being what they are these days, producers need to maximize every bit of profitability they can.”

Clint Thompson is an agriculture writer based in Tifton, Georgia.

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