What new knowledge will farmers gain?

The "Building Farmers in the West" program provides educational support and access to agricultural resources for producers with varying levels of experience in agriculture. This program is directed to producers who want to learn how to successfully manage and grow a direct marketing enterprise of high-value crops. A primary goal of the program is to help these producers understand and manage the risks inherent in businesses that are selling directly to consumers through new marketing channels (such as farmers' markets, produce stands, community supported agriculture subscriptions, and other direct marketing avenues).

Course Summary

An eight-week short course is the primary educational component of the program, which includes

  • Classroom sessions involving small group work on strategic business plan development, and panel discussions with local farmers
  • Print materials, such as planning worksheets andhandouts detailing how the presenters manage their own market farm business
  • Online planning and spreadsheet applications targeted at smaller-scale, diversified market farming operations
  • Additional in-depth printed materials made available electronically for wider dissemination on University Extension websites

In addition to an eight-week course, the program can also deliver information through other channels, such as:

  • Longer-term mentor contacts with individual producers designed to provide specific, hands-on technical assistance
  • individual producer contacts with campus and county-based project personnel for strategic planning, production, or marketing assistance 

The core curriculum was developed by the 7 state BFW leadership team and has been peer reviewed by Extension farm management and marketing specialists from across the country.  Links to each of the three core curricula are provided below and include, power point presentations, fact sheets, worksheets and other educational resource materials.


Course Details

 Three Core Topic Areas

Strategic Business Planning Curriculum  

By the end of this core section, participants will be acquainted with the major elements needed in a business plan:

  • Vision and mission statements
  • Defining and refining goals and objectives to achieve the mission
  • Strategic assessment of the market and current enterprise

Course curriculum can be adapted in each program to complement the participants' needs and focus that the instructional speaker wants to emphasize.

Strategic Business Planning Curriculum


Planning for Market

Unlike more traditional agricultural marketing courses, this curriculum gives specific attention to elements that important for small-scale, highly differentiated products, including:

  • Targeting markets and positioning yourself in the market
  • Pricing Strategies and how they may vary by customer or marketing channel
  • Effective promotion and merchandising for direct markets, using cost effective tools

This course curriculum can be adapted in each program to complement the participants' needs and focus that the instructional speaker wants to emphasize.

Marketing Curriculum

Recordkeeping & Financial Analysis for Start-ups and Smaller Scale Operations

The financing that beginning farmers need requires particularly good cash flow planning to assure that adequate resources are available throughout the production season.  This class will emphasize the need for cost-of-production and cash flow budget planning and effective use of capital including:

  • Principles of cash-basis recordkeeping for farms, including unique challenges for farms with a highly diverse set of enterprises
  • Creating an individualized, useful chart of accounts
  • Monitoring the implementation of your business plan
  • End-of-year conversion of cash-basis records to accrual accounting information
  • Completion and analysis of financial statements (equity, cash flow and income)
  • Acquiring capital for a beginning farming operation 

These topics can be adapted in each program to complement the participants' needs and the focus that the instructional speaker wants to emphasize. 

Records & Financial Analysis Curriculum

Elective Topics

Food Safety (See Marketing Curriculum)

  • What are the regulations producers should be aware of in different markets?
  •  How will food safety concerns influence your production, handling and marketing choices?
  • What resources are available locally to help you comply with food safety regulations?

Income Taxes (See Records & Financial Analysis Curriculum)

  • How to use a simple, cash-basis recordkeeping system to easily complete your Farm Income Tax Return (IRS Schedule F)
  • How to use the "Farmers Tax Guide" (IRS Publication 225) to clearly understand all IRS requirements related to operating your farm business
  • How to effectively time the purchase and depreciation of your capital assets

 Land Acquisition and Farming on Public Land

  • How intermediate producers got into farming, overview of your farm
  • Innovative approaches to finding land, water and/or capital
  • Marketing thru farmers market, and labor management
  • Growing production area through leases, partnerships 


  • What are the opportunities to enhance revenues through visitors (not just sales)
  • Marketing strategies for agritourism enterprises
  • Regulatory and risk management with visitors 









Began as a regional partnership to build community and capacity among a new generation of direct market farmers and local food systems.

For additional information, contact:

Dawn Thilmany McFadden
(970) 491-7220 dawn.thilmany@colostate.edu

Jo Ann Warner
(509) 477-2168

Western Extension Risk Management Education

Initially funded by the USDA Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program (grant award number 2009-49400-05877).