The HVADC Cultivator
National Farm Viability Conference
The National Farm Viability Conference is a biennial conference that focuses on the issues farmers are most concerned with today: strengthening farm sustainability, building stronger and more resilient local food systems and supporting the long term profitability of farming and agri-entrepreneurs from start-ups to generational businesses.
The fourth National Farm Viability Conference is being held October 22-24, 2019 in Red Wing, Minnesota. HVADC is participating as a member of the organizing committee, along with the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, American Farmland Trust, the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Compeer Financial, the Northwest Area Foundation, Organic Valley and The University of Vermont Extension.
This year’s conference topics include: Finance and Business Development, Accessing Capital for Growth, Food and Farm Marketing and Distribution, New and Beginning Farmers, Equity and Social Justice in the Food System, Succession Planning and Land Transfer, Program Development, Funding and Design. It features three days of workshops, discussions and tours focused on strengthening farm sustainability, building more resilient local food systems and supporting the long term profitability of farming and agri-entrepreneurs from start-ups to generational businesses. Participants will have the opportunity to network with fellow professionals and industry leaders from across the country, visit farms and value-added processing facilities, and develop new knowledge and skills.
Originally established by the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program in 2008, the National Farm Viability Conference is held every other year in a different region of the country. This is the event’s first year in the Midwest and it will be hosted by the local organization Renewing the Countryside and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. The conference is geared towards professionals in the fields of farm and food business planning, financial planning, agricultural financing, farmland conservation, agricultural market development, and food hub management.
HVADC Executive Director Todd Erling has been on the steering committee of the conference, and has participated since its inception. In 2017, HVADC hosted the conference in Albany, at what was then the newly opened Albany Capital Center. The conference host committee for the 2017 event was comprised of Erling, HVADC Deputy Director Mary Ann Johnson, Ela Chapin and Liz Gleason of Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program, Chris Wayne from GrowNYC, Anthony Chang of Kitchen Table Advisors, Jerry Cosgrove, American Farmland Trust and Anu Rangarajan of the Cornell Small Farms Program.
Erling opened the event with New York Ag Commissioner Richard Ball, and issued welcoming remarks as well as offered attendees a lay of the land; pointing out ways that business assistance plays a role in meeting regional demand for quality food products, economic development and community resilience. Erling, Chapin, Wayne and Paige Phinney of Kitchen Table Advisors offered the workshop, Farm Viability Program Models: Various Approaches to One-on-One Business Advising.
Participants heard about four very different program models for delivering one-on-one business advising to agricultural enterprises. Panelists described various program models, approaches and funding structures; selecting, managing and training business advisors; evaluating program outcomes; and working with partners to expand reach and impact. Farm tours that year highlighted locations throughout the Capital and Hudson Valley region, and select Peers of HVADC’s first Farm and Food Funding Accelerator program were invited to present their refined capital pitch presentations to the conference audience.
The 2019 National Farm Viability Conference comes at a critical time in U.S. agriculture, when consolidating and changing markets are affecting many family-run farms, farmland is changing hands at an increasingly rapid rate as farmland and other agricultural assets transition to the next generation. Farmers are facing particular hardships in many areas of the country, while at the same time emerging opportunities and new business models are explored by new and beginning farmers as well as those that see a need for change.
In this economic climate, it is strategic for farm and food entrepreneurs to focus on sound financial planning, long-term business strategy, accessing new markets and transitioning to different production methods, and as well plan for business succession. The National Farm Viability Conference provides the opportunity to learn about key efforts to support farm and food entrepreneurs as they navigate markets, growth and change, and to develop relationships with and learn from your colleagues from across the country. Consistent with a recent publication of the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program, A 2018 Exploration of the Future of Vermont Agriculture, this year the Conference will put an emphasis on new, innovative approaches to protecting our country’s agricultural resources and the economic viability of our country’s farmers.
“The conference has played a critical role in gathering farms, food entrepreneurs and business development experts together to examine issues impacting us all and offer a host of innovative solutions,” said Erling. “We tend to think of our challenges as unique; local, regional or even through the filter of our individual state, but not nationally. At the conference in October, there will be sessions on issues that touch everyone: technical resources, community-based solutions, market channel analysis, farm labor law, food safety issues, conservation and transfer projects, farmland investment, food law challenges and solutions and so much more. These conferences offer vital information, resources and connections,” he continued.
Registration for the conference is now open, with an early registration discount available to August 15. There are limited scholarships available for qualified participants, which can be applied for through the Conference’s registration web page.
Photo Source: National Farm Viability Conference