Originally published in June 2017 by the Canadian Organic Grower
Running a farm includes cultivating the financial health of your business. In The Farmer’s Office, Julia Shanks makes bookkeeping approachable with simple accounting terminology, clear charts, and farm-specific examples. The Farmer’s Office is an honest guide to the challenges facing farms with advice to help any farmer’s business grow.
Shanks presents the basics of financial statements and accounting in a readable way. Introductory terminology is covered, yet there is enough depth to set up Quickbooks software for bookkeeping. Practical advice, like spending 10 minutes on daily data entry, ensures paperwork is kept to a minimum and that receipts won’t pile up (or compost) in your wallet. The reward is foresight and planning for any issues, plus daunting tasks like “year-end” are more manageable for farmers to understand.
Digging into the Numbers covers the managerial side of accounting. This can help guide your decisions about crop or livestock planning, including tools such as break-even analysis, fair wages, and of course – pricing. In the ‘cost of production’ exercise, several scenarios for selling tomatoes are explored. This is one our farm has also tackled, as we balance the lure of juicy heirlooms that CSA members love with the reality of growing in a foggy maritime climate.
The Farmer’s Office offers a bright spot for farmers facing financial stress due to debt and cash flow problems. Shanks notes that rarely is it just one mistake or poor season that gets us into trouble, so multiple changes are necessary to get out, which can be managed with the 4 “Rules of the Hole.” The question of knowing when to quit is presented along with thoughtful case studies.
Looking ahead to growing a business, The Farmer’s Office encourages an open mind to setting goals and deciding how to grow. By refining the business model, farmers will have the information and confidence needed to access financing, increase production, or establish new markets.
Whether you are just starting a new farm enterprise or evaluating your current situation, The Farmer’s Office is a solid reference. Shanks demonstrates how farm sustainability is tied to financial sustainability, with tools to achieve both.
You can find many more books like this in the COG Library here. Books are shipped across Canada for free!