; Reading the Farm - A Whole Farm Analysis Process for Agricultural Professionals | Conferences | AgRisk Library


Conference Name Reading the Farm - A Whole Farm Analysis Process for Agricultural Professionals

Seth Wilner and Laurie Wolinski


Permission to board….and bring 40 inquiring minds

This session will describe an innovative process called “Reading the Farm” that has been successfully used to build ag professionals’ skills in conducting a whole farm analysis.

This in-person technique involves digging deep into a farm’s operations to assess their strengths and also where potential risk lurks. This intense, but eye-opening process, illustrates how a successful farming operation can be at risk, even when it appears to be financially sound.

This presentation will walk participants through the steps of this process and provide them with resources so that they can return home and implement this with their colleagues, while positively impacting family farms. We will share success stories that include different ways of implementing the process depending on the farm type and on time available.

This process has been incorporated into the National SARE Fellows Program to teach agricultural professionals from across the country how to examine a farm system. It has also been offered as a half-day workshop at two National Farm Viability Conferences and two
National Association County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) conferences.

The evaluations from these events have been glowing, both the farmers and the ag professionals report learning so much through this process.

The tour participants are presented with a study and history of the farm and ultimately learn about how to look for/ask about the farm’s systems and processes. Through small groups and topic “stations”, participants engage in peer-to-peer learning on subjects relative to farm financial health, succession planning, business structures, enterprise selection, production, environmental issues, people issues, and a whole lot more. This process truly integrates social, economic and environmental assessment.

With Extension farm management agents and specialists positions not being filled at the same rate of retirements, The Northeast Extension Farm Management Committee with funding from NERME, teamed up with the National Farm Viability Conference in 2017 and 2019 to conduct two Whole Farm Analysis Tours to help introduce the array of risk management topics on a farm while also making an impact on the farms that were visited.