JACKSON Since becoming a Farm Business Management (FBM) instructor at the Jackson campus of Minnesota West, I often get asked if I enjoy working with the college kids. They assume that I work with traditional post-secondary education students. I then have to clarify that Minnesota West, as well as seven other colleges in the state of Minnesota, offers individualized FBM instruction to farmers that are enrolled in the program.

Another myth I hear is that you need to be a beginning farmer or be referred by your lender in order to enroll in FBM. While we do enroll students through these methods, the truth is that any farmer is eligible to enroll in FBM regardless of age, financial situation, size or type of farm, or even state of residence.

Farm business management education uses your real farm information as your ongoing case study. Due to the sensitive nature of working with personal and business financial data, most instruction is held with members of an individual farm only. While it is individualized instruction, I encourage all people who make decisions for a particular farm to participate. It’s not unusual for the one family member to make purchasing decisions for the farm while another takes care of the bookwork. It is important to include both in FBM discussions to ensure that they are on the same page and share a common goal for the farm.

My main goal as an FBM instructor is not to be a consultant that makes decisions for your farm. Instead, I strive to provide you with the knowledge and tools to allow YOU to make the best business management decisions for your farm. Instruction generally falls into three main categories: record keeping, analysis and goal setting/planning. The backbone to the program is proper record keeping. Without accurate records, you are unable to analyze your data. Without analysis, all goals and plans are made blindly. Participants are expected to keep accurate financial records, provide information for a yearly balance sheet and financial analysis, and provide information to build a projected cash flow statement of the upcoming year. Financial information is benchmarked against anonymous peer data to find where improvements can be made in the operation. The farm member(s) then set goals striving to achieve those improvements.

Participants of FBM have commented that participation in the program has given them confidence and information to make sound management decisions for their farm. Those decisions can be anything from input and capital purchases to commodity marketing; all leading to higher farm profits. Participants also cite increased credibility to lenders, increased credibility to landlords and assurance that their financial books are correct when it comes to preparing taxes or going through an audit. A survey of Farm Business Management participants, conducted by the University of Minnesota Center for Farm Financial Management, concluded that producers estimate their annual net farm income increased an average of $12,169 as a result of participation in FBM.

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Those interested in learning more about the Farm Business Management program at Minnesota West are welcome to contact myself or any of the other 14 Minnesota West FBM instructors found at https://www.mnwest.edu/programs-courses/training-management/farm-business-management