The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook: A Complete Guide to Managing Finances, Crops, and Staff—and Making a Profit
As the Project Director for HMI’s Beginning Women Farmer Program, I’ve spent a lot of time reviewing various financial and business planning materials for farmers. One of the books I consistently direct people to when they are ready to ramp up their farming business is Richard Wiswall’s The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook. This is a great handbook for any farmer, not just organic farmers, but it is even more helpful for organic farmers because of some of the additional organic production practices he includes in his book.
Wiswall is an experienced farmer, who has been running Cate Farm in Vermont for the last 27 years. He opens his book by talking about the money that can be made in farming and the need for business and financial planning to make it happen. In fact, he mentions that he took a Holistic Management class in 1993 and heard the presenter say, “The biggest fallacy in farming is that there is no money in it.” He talked about how that statement really changed his paradigm about farming, and I think that is the main reason he wrote The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook—to help other farmers change their paradigms.
Clearly Wiswall is comfortable with number crunching and making a profit, and he gets people thinking about efficiencies and economies of scale in a sustainable way. Even if not everyone on the farm team wants to do the numbers, this book helps whoever is in charge of the finances find a way to move forward and grow the profitability of an organic business—a critical need at this time as organic food demand exceeds supplies. His tools and templates are simple and efficient so the average farmer shouldn’t be overwhelmed. Like any component of management, it is making the time to do the necessary chores like recordkeeping and enterprise analysis that is so critical.
This book is a handbook—it has exercises to complete including some whole farm goal setting. Wiswall also really drives home the focus on profit rather than production which is a critical point for many farmers. He develops a worksheet that helps people project gross sales over a 5 year period to help them determine how they can move from their current net to the net they would like to earn and then gives an example of a marketing chart of how to grow those gross sales in such as way as to earn the net. It’s these kinds of simple yet rigorous exercises that make this book so valuable.
While the book itself is worth the cover price, the added bonus of a CD filled with job descriptions, timesheets, payroll calculators, and enterprise budget templates makes this book/CD a real bargain. If you want to build out a business plan and grow your farming business, Wiswall has given you all the tools you need in The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook.
To purchase this book go to: https://holisticmanagement.org/store/books/