Business Mentorship – Lessons Learned: Plenty Wild Farms

Posted by Alyssa Belter on December 08, 2016

plenty-wild-lambs

We are Alyssa Belter & David Tanner of Plenty Wild Farms in Pemberton, B.C. Our mentor for the Young Agrarians Business Mentorship Program was Chris Bodnar of Close to Home Organics.

Our original goal for this mentorship was to develop two business plans – one for a livestock/dairy operation and the other for a cheese-making operation – to see if either would be viable and at what scale. Using a template and list of questions we formulated with Chris, we began our research on the livestock/dairy operation – gathering information from online sources, reading books and contacting established farm operations in Canada and the U.S.

By early spring we found that our vegetable business was demanding most of our attention and, with Chris’ support, shifted the goals of our mentorship to make that operation the focus. Since then Chris has helped us streamline our bookkeeping through the adoption of QuickBooks, prepare for our first employee and write Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for key tasks on the farm. As the end of our mentorship draws to a close we have been working on setting goals and making plans for the 2017 season, completing a cashflow analysis and (finally) writing a business plan for our vegetable business.

The mentorship has had a huge impact on our business. Through the webinars and financial planning resources, our financial literacy has improved substantially. We have a better understanding of what tools we can use to gauge how our business is doing financially and, as a result, make better decisions regarding expenses and capital improvements.

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Although we did not accomplish our initial goal,  we were able to gather a great deal of useful information and make some excellent contacts. Should we choose to revisit the possibility of a livestock/dairy operation in the future we have the beginnings of a business plan to work from. For now, after analyzing the finances of our current vegetable business, we realized we are not yet in the right position to start a new business.

However, our veggie business had a very successful year overall. We increased our gross income by $20,000 to meet our gross income target. Our net income also increased despite the addition of our first full-time employee and, even after purchasing a new greenhouse, we were still able to pay ourselves more than last year.

Best of all, we ended the season in the best physical condition and with most energy we’ve ever had. We are already excited to start thinking about crop planning for next year! We feel like this outcome was a direct result of the excellent support the mentorship program provided as, on a personal level, it was a very challenging year for us due to a couple major family emergencies, several out-of-province weddings during the peak summer market season and our own wedding which took place on the farm at the start of September.

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We are grateful to Chris Bodnar and the Young Agrarians for making a huge difference in our lives and business this year! As the New Year approaches we are looking forward to long sleeps, cross-country skiing and cozying up by the fire 🙂

2015-16 Funding for the Young Agrarians Business Mentorship Network Pilot is provided in part by Salt Spring Coffee, Vancity, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the BC Ministry of Agriculture through programs delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC.

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