Farming is an extremely risky business at the best of times, but in recent years it’s become even more difficult to make a decent profit.
In the past five years, for example, farms with incomes of less than $100,000 have lost money and 52 percent of Ontario farmers find themselves in this category.
In order to make ends meet, these farmers must turn to other sources of income to subsidize their farms.
For Ontario farmers who have gross farm incomes of less than $100,000, 65 percent of their net income is earned off-farm.
Which is why the 2009 “Value Plus” workshop held Feb. 6-7 at the Emo Inn was so important for local farm producers and rural-based entrepreneurs as it gave them the opportunity of learning about methods of adding to their income.
Entitled “Growing Your Opportunities—A Quest for New Farm Value,” and offered by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs in conjunction with the Canadian Farm Business Management Council, it was well-attended by people from across the district.
The workshop offered participants a unique way of following a new product from conception to integration into the marketplace.
It also helped entrepreneurs identify new value-added ideas, methods of putting their ideas into action, unique ways to connect with the right market channels, and how to find new ways to market their products and services.
The group also learned that being successful in farming in the future will depend relatively more on excellent farm management skills and relatively less on simply being a technically-efficient producer.
Skills such as business planning, financial control, human resources management, marketing, and value-added ideas will be vital determinants of success for farm producers and rural-based entrepreneurs in an ever-changing agricultural sector.
The content of the workshop was based on two publications from the CFBMC, “Building Added Value, Through Farm Diversification” and “Farm Business Planning: Understanding, Preparing and Using,” which were co-authored by R. Gary Morton and Bev Connell.
The two-day workshop, which is being held in 29 other locations across the province, assisted the participants in applying the concepts found in these two books and allowed them to study many success stories of real-life farm innovators (or as the program calls them, “Agra-vators”) and how they developed and marketed their own “Value Plus” products.
Gary Sliworsky, the local agricultural rep for OMAFRA, felt the workshop was very successful.
“There was some good discussion on ideas and topics throughout the two-day workshop,” he enthused.
Participants were guided through a number of exercises to give them practical strategies to help develop new value-added ideas for their farm/ranch business.
They followed a hypothetical product called a “squidget” through the value-added development process—from its initial conception all the way to its success as a “value plus” product in the marketplace.
George Schrijver, the main presenter, hoped the participants would take two important things away from the workshop: a desire to develop new value plus products and a commitment to the developmental process.
Morton and Connell, the co-authors of the “Value Plus” process, firmly believe every ranch/farm has some hidden value that, when found, developed, and polished up, has the potential to bring new value back to the business.
From all accounts, the workshop participants profited greatly from the chance to network, learn, and exchange ideas and best practices with their peers and the presenters of the program.
At the end of the workshop, Schrijver acted as a “gate-keeper” at the door. As the participants filed out, he personally asked each one whether they had received what they needed from the course.
“Each person responded with an enthusiastic yes,” noted Sliworsky. “Some even openly elaborated on their plans for the future!”
If you have an idea you think could be turned into a viable product, but just couldn’t make the workshop, all is not lost. The OMAFRA Business Management website at www.ontario.ca/agbusiness can provide you with all the tools you’ll need to make the necessary business decisions.
You can download free farm business fact sheets, business calculators, and cost-of-production budgets for a wide range of products.
If you are looking for information on how to market your value-added product, this website definitely will point you in the right direction.