Last winter, Wyoming, Ontario, farmer Alfred Noorloos had a big decision to make. A neighbouring farm came up for sale and he wondered whether he should buy it.
The beef and cash crop farmer was looking to expand, but was the timing right? Was his operation financially strong enough to justify the expansion? There were many tough questions, but Noorloos didn’t have to go far to find the answers. Just months earlier he had enrolled in the Advanced Farm Management Program (AFMP), which provides a unique combination of farm business management training and personalised, practical teachings that farmers can apply immediately to their operation.
As luck would have it, Noorloos had just completed the financial management session of AFMP, which includes an in-depth look at financial ratios and other measures for assessing the health of your farm business.
“I made good use of AFMP in the one transaction, and that’s a big transaction. Learning how to better use financial ratios gave me the confidence I needed to buy another farm,” says Noorloos. “Unless you have a business major and you are confident you have all the aspects of your business in order, I think AFMP would be helpful for most, if not every farmer,” he says.
AFMP enters its third year this winter with expansion plans of its own. Buoyed by the positive experience of graduates like Noorloos, the program plans to expand to five locations for 2014/15, including Ridgetown, London, Orangeville, Ancaster and Winchester, Ont. The program consists of five intensive one-day training sessions over a four-month period beginning in November/December and farmers are urged to register early to secure a position at their preferred location.
Ryan Koeslag, AMI’s executive director, believes AFMP is a great fit for farm owners and managers. “It helps farmers improve their businesses by exposing them to best practices in human resources, financial management, and marketing that make a difference on the farm,” he says.
Jennifer Doleman, another AFMP alumnus, plays a key management role with Barclay Dick & Son Farm Supply near Renfrew, Ontario. She signed up for AFMP to learn more about financial management. “I want to understand financial ratios and make sure I’m reading my books the way my bankers do. I’m an agronomist by trade, so I’ve had to learn the business from the inside out. It was really nice to have a lot of benchmarks that you could compare your business to.”
The program also helped Doleman on the human resources front.
“As a result of AFMP, I have a human resources plan that I’m putting in place. I’m very confident in my risk management and my fiscal management, but I get overwhelmed with human resources. AFMP gave me some good suggestions and a bit of momentum.”
Synthesis Agri-Food Network president Rob Hannam, who facilitates AFMP sessions, says one of the programs strengths is its focus on key business needs including financial management and business structure, risk management, human resources, marketing as well as personal leadership.
“AFMP helps you think strategically about your business, build a strong management action plan, and provides practical knowledge and insights needed to improve the everyday management of your operation,” says Hannam.
Registration for 2014/15 sessions is now open. The deadline to apply is Oct. 31, 2014. Registrations received before Sept. 15 are eligible for a $150 discount. AFMP tuition is $1,950 per person and farmers may be eligible for a cost share rebate of 50 per cent of the tuition through the Growing Forward 2 Capacity Building program. Full payment of tuition is required by Oct. 31, 2014.
Visit www.ontariosoilcrop.org for more details.