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Holistic Financial Planning (BF 203)

Building Farm Profit Into the Picture

If you’ve been struggling to make your farm operation profitable without driving yourself into the ground, this financial planning course is for you. Ultimately it will help you with the delicate balancing act that all farmers must succeed in:  balancing healthy profits with healthy land and a healthy farm family and personal life.  You will learn how to make financial decisions toward farm & family values and goals, and how to build profit into your plans up front, rather than hoping there is something left once expenses are subtracted from income. If you have been struggling with the financial statements in your business plan, this is a great course to help you focus in on these and get clear on your numbers.

“This course gave us the support we needed to get started on designing a whole farm budget, assessing our net worth, setting goals, and making decisions; and a set of tools to help us as we define profit for ourselves and our farm.” –Cyrus Y, Kennebunk, ME

Target Audience

This course is intended for farmers with at least one season of management experience and some record of their farm’s income and expenses (even if this information is stored on scraps of paper in a shoebox!). This course will move at an intense pace, with time to catch up at the end.

If you have not yet started farming, you are welcome to take the course, but you will need to do extra legwork to research realistic potential expenses and income for your planned enterprises.

Course Objectives

If you complete this course you will:

  • Have a written statement of your family’s values and vision and know how to use it to guide financial and overall farm decision-making
  • Have a written Annual Financial Plan mapping out your planned profit, income streams, and expenses (this plan doubles as a cash-flow statement in your business plan and is one of the main documents a lender will want to see)
  • Understand that all expenses are not created equally, and now how to prioritize and cut them
  • Know how to monitor your plan so that you can correct your course when you start to go off-plan


The bulk of the course happens on your own time, with discussions, readings, and assignments in MOODLE, our virtual classroom. To add to the experience, webinars will be woven into the online interface of the course to allow you to meet on a weekly basis to learn from presenters and  ask questions to address your farm issues in real time. If you miss one, they are always recorded and posted for later viewing.


Phil Metzger was a conservationist with the National Resource Conservation Service for over 30 years, and has been an instructor and Certified Educator of Holistic Management for 13 years.

Erica Frenay is the Beginning Farmer Online Course Manager for the Cornell Small Farms Program. She has been a Certified Educator of Holistic Management for 12 years, and manages her own growing farm operation, Shelterbelt Farm.


Wed. Jan. 20 – Feb 24, 2016. Webinars will be on Wed. evenings from 7-8:30pm Eastern time, and will be recorded for later viewing. This course is closed and will run again in January 2017, with registration opening in mid-August 2016.

Course Outline

  • Week 1. Introductions and overview of the course, our online campus (Moodle), and the Holistic Financial Planning process. Establish course expectations and logistics. Work on creating an individual Farm/Family Goal.
  • Week 2. Assessing last year’s progress and identifying logjams, adverse factors, & financial weak links. Understanding the utility of brainstorming and how to test potential courses of action toward your Farm/Family Goal.
  •  Week 3. Understanding how to plan income & profit.  Completing a Balance Sheet & determining Net Worth.
  • Week 4. Understanding how to plan, prioritize & cut expenses
  • Week 5. Understanding how to balance a plan, do a cash flow analysis & the value of post-plan Net Worth as an indicator of your progress over time.
  • Week 6. Reviewing any remaining unclear concepts/procedures in a Q&A. Reviewing completed or in-progress plans. Learning a monitoring protocol. Open-Participant Topic discussion. Future training opportunities and other next steps.

Cost and Registration

Fee for this course is $200. This course is currently closed. Registration will re-open in mid-August 2016.