Over the past several months, a Fauquier Co. young farmer, Ben Smith of Remington, participated in an innovative program designed to educate young, beginning, small, and minority farmers about how to successfully manage their operation. The Farm Credit University (FCU) Ag Biz Planner program teaches financial and management skills that provide a sound foundation for keeping their diverse operations growing.
After earning a degree in the two-year Ag Technology program at Virginia Tech, Smith has returned home to work with his father, Ken Smith, at Cool Lawn Farm LLC, a 500-cow dairy operation. The Smiths’ are currently updating the Cool Lawn Farm facility to accommodate 600 cows. Apart from working at Cool Lawn Farm, Smith is farming 100 acres on his own. He is hoping to increase his land base in the future by working with other landowners as opportunities arise.
“We’ve offered this course for two years, and participants find it invaluable. The types of loans and paperwork required in agribusiness are unique and can be overwhelming. This course prepares individuals to discuss financing options to fund their operation, replace equipment, or expand the business,” says Dave Lawrence, CEO of Farm Credit of the Virginias.
In addition to the college-level, 10-module, online course, Smith had a close mentoring relationship with three representatives from Farm Credit of the Virginias. John Day, the Director of Loan Initiatives, Susan Belford, the Warrenton branch office manager, and Larry Powell, a recently retired commercial ag business line leader, served as coaches and facilitators as Smith worked through the course. By the end of the course, Smith developed a strategic business plan for his farming operation.
To conclude the program, all of the participants came together recently for an Ag Biz Planner Conference led by Dr. David Kohl, a retired Virginia Tech agricultural finance and business management expert and creator of the program. During the two-day conference, he emphasized how to capitalize on and navigate the challenges in agribusiness.
“By completing this computer-based program, these farmers and agribusiness entrepreneurs are now equipped with the skills to keep their operations moving forward for the long the long term,” says Dr. David Kohl.
Farm Credit of the Virginias, which had seven participants, teamed up with four other Farm Credit associations in North Carolina and eastern Virginia to co-sponsor a total of 32 participants in the program.
Farm Credit of the Virginias provides over $1.5 billion in financing to more than 10,000 farmers, agribusinesses and rural homeowners in 96 counties in Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. Farm Credit makes loans for home purchase and
construction, land and farm purchases, equipment, farming expenses, horse and livestock purchases. Other financial services available through Farm Credit are credit life insurance, crop insurance and equipment leasing programs.