I got some file folders and a couple organizational tools for the "farm office" today. Tomorrow I am moving offices at TapRoot, from the Church Street Farm to the Canard Farm, so I guess I get two new offices in one week. We now have a place to put incoming invoices and receipts, so I will be all set when we get our business bank account and can pay ourselves back for the seed orders.
The business aspect of farming is super important to me. I figure, choosing to be a farmer means accepting a lower income lifestyle. Money isn't everything, but if you have little it need to be well-managed. I think the best grower in the world would be easily surpassed by the crappy farmer who is good with his money. So, one skill set that I have been building the past two years is my accounting/bookkeeping/financial management skills, so that Jon and Teri's Farm will hit the ground running.
I have been doing this with lots of mentoring from Josh and Trish, looking at TapRoot's financials, as well as a couple of courses and workshops, and a bit of consulting from a couple accountants and bookkeepers I know. Every single part of this was free, short of a few travel expenses. I know a lot more than I did two years ago (I have always managed people, logistics, and procurement, not money), but I still have a long ways to go.
I am planning to use FCC's accounting software, AgExpert Analyst because I got to see a presentation about it and I think it offers good value and functionality, comparable to Quickbooks or Simply Accounting, but created by Farm Credit Canada specifically for farmers. Proportionally to what we will make this year, the cost of the software is a big expense ($500), but it's a tool that I want to start using now so that once there IS a lot to manage we will be pros and the office work will be quick and dirty. Also, the renewal fee for the software is half of the initial fee, and compared to Quickbooks it is a better value (and cheaper). Plus, it's not totally re-inventing the wheel-- If I learn how to use it, a lot of the skills are transferable to some of the more common accounting programs. The final thing that I like about it is that it's under development, and so you are able to call and speak to a person-- a real, live one-- if you have a problem or a suggestion or a specific need.
The TapRoot Farms Office, where I have worked for a year-and-a-half next to Falicia. -->
The people behind the software is one thing I love about the software that I use for our website and blog, and our future CSA. It is called HarvestHand and it was developed by one of TapRoot's CSA members/friends of the farm, Mike Caplan. Mike is awesome and he has been able to grow the project so that HarvestHand is now a three-way partnership with himself, Patricia, and Duncan (who is also lovely and highly skilled on all things marketing, community, and computer). So, not only can I get support (Such as: "hey, my blog is doing something weird"; "how do I...") but I can also put in requests for functionality that I see would be helpful (as in, "Can you make it do this?"). AND I'm supporting people and projects that I believe in: not with my dollars-- yet-- but with future CSA there will be a tiny fee per member for anything over 10 members). In the meantime I am part of the community of farmers already using it and developing it for the future.
Another reason I'm using Harvest Hand is because it links my blog, website, and member management into the same platform. I'm all about streamlining (says the girl with 8 email addresses!); the less programs I have to keep up with, the better. I was never a computer fan, and so I still find software frustrating for the most part, especially when things change all the time. As I already spend most of the day at work (when I am at my desk at least) using HarvestHand, I know it inside and out. That being said, it is straightforward: I don't think I ever really had a lesson, I just jumped on and started using it from day one.
Laying the groundwork now for our future is what I am trying to achieve, and I think that so far we are in good shape. We hope to be farming independently within the next 5 years, and each year plan to take more steps to getting there. This year, our business will run as a single crop project, under the wing of TapRoot, and next year we may look at doing more crops through the same relationship, or renting land and doing something a bit more independent. Somewhere in there is plans to start having kids, so we will see how things go. We have lots of goals laid out year-by-year for the next 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 15, 20 years, and I know that we'll get there. We are fortunate to have full-time jobs farming together in the meantime, and a supportive environment in which to build our business.
That's it for now, next time I will tell you about the seeds we have chosen, or maybe I will make Jon a blog account too and he can tell you about them. :)
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