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Working on the Business: Tax Day Musings

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By Linda Coffey, NCAT Livestock Specialist

Here in Arkansas, the grass is growing, hens are at full lay, baby lambs are everywhere, and calves are arriving. It’s past time to put in garden crops, my to-do list is full of outdoor tasks, and it’s an exciting, beautiful time of year. I remember from past years how April and May are crazy if you have kids in school and in sports or band or FFA; this is an intensely busy time!

So, it might seem strange that I’m thinking about “winter” stuff. But in my day job as an NCAT livestock specialist, I’ve been working on improving the curriculum for our Women, Livestock, and the Land course. That course focuses on helping women farmers gain the knowledge and support and confidence to run their own farms, setting goals, managing soils and pastures and livestock, and working with processors and marketing the livestock products. There’s a wealth of great content, and I’m excited to have the curriculum available for the upcoming cohorts from the WLL Gulf States project, funded by the National Grazing Lands Coalition.

In this revision, we are adding a module for business planning. And in thinking what to include, I accessed the recordings and curriculum from a previous project done in our office, the SARE-funded “Taking Your Farm to the Next Level”—and I want to share with you. The videos were recorded at a series of workshops held in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in late 2018 and early 2019.

These presentations are all outstanding, featuring farmers like yourself sharing very practical tips that will help you succeed in the crucial tasks, including whole-farm planning, recordkeeping, accessing capital, branding and marketing, understanding legal aspects, and accounting and taxes. The webinars are not long, and you get to hear other farmers asking great questions on topics that make or break a business.

So how could you fit in these presentations, during a crazy busy season? Why am I even bringing this up now? Because you and I are entering the time when we have products to sell. Wouldn’t it be great to have better systems for tracking sales and expenses? Wouldn’t it be good to have these voices in our earbuds as we move fence or weed the garden or pick strawberries?

The fact is, it’s always possible to procrastinate our least-favorite subjects, like recordkeeping. But what if better recordkeeping would make next year’s tax season much easier? (It will!) And what if recordkeeping this spring and summer and fall will give us the information we need to plan for 2025, and adapt during 2024? (It will!)

I heartily recommend that you consider setting aside an hour (or less; some are shorter) to watch a webinar instead of Netflix as you wind down from your busy day. “Webinar Wednesday” could be how you remember, or you could agree that you and your partner will do one every evening for the next week. Or that any day over 90 degrees, you get a break in the afternoon and cool off and get inspired by a webinar. My thought is that this is too good to wait till winter; these will help you through the rest of 2024 and beyond.

Here is the link to the entire course.

The worksheets and publications and resources suggested are great, but it’s the webinars I most enjoy. Work through them in order or choose the topic you need most and take YOUR farm to the next level this year!

Whole-Farm Planning, by Margo Hale, 22 minutes

Business Planning, by Luke Freeman, 24 minutes

Farm Accounting, by Ashley Appel, 24 minutes

Accessing Capital, by Charlie Stockton, 33 minutes

Farm Recordkeeping, by Luke Freeman, 36 minutes

Real World Recordkeeping, by Jeremy Prater, 59 minutes

Business Organizations, by Rusty Rumley, 45 minutes

Ag Labor Laws, by Rusty Rumley, 20 minutes

Farm Branding and Communications, by Robyn Metzger, 20 minutes

Social Media Marketing, by Luke Freeman, 61 minutes

I encourage you to dedicate some time to working on your business, even while you are extremely busy. I promise it will pay off! The presenters are all outstanding and you will find next tax season to be much less stressful and more satisfying if you implement this course. Use the tips to improve your marketing now. Reach out to the project leader, Margo Hale, if you have any comments about this course. Or email me. I’d love to hear about the value you find in these presentations.

Related ATTRA Resources:

Business and Marketing

Women, Livestock, and the Land—And Other Ways to Make Friends

Other Resources:

National Grazing Lands Coalition

This blog is produced by the National Center for Appropriate Technology through the ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture program, under a cooperative agreement with USDA Rural Development. ATTRA.NCAT.ORG.