Local farmers are faced with many challenges as they attempt to manage risks. These challenges include high input and energy costs, fewer off-farm employment opportunities, increased financial and marketing risks, and weather.
Risk has always been a part of agriculture, but farming has changed dramatically over the past few years. Increasingly, farmers are learning that it is now a game with new risks. Today successful farmers are businessmen first, and farmers second. The most successful farmers are now looking at a deliberate and knowledge approach to risk management as a vital part of their plan. For them, risk management means farming in a more rapidly changing world. Continued success and survival in the current risk laden world of agricultural production will be determined largely by one’s ability to anticipate and prepare for the future.
Farmers generally deal with five types of risks, including production, marketing, financial, legal issues, and human resource issues.
In 2014, Cooperative Extension assisted 26 farmers in responding to risk by developing their own personal risk management risk plans through a series of workshops. These farmers learned how to understand and implement farm business planning principles for successful risk management decision-making. They completed nearly all of the tasks listed in their risk management plans.
Some of the completed tasks included: Establishing a written will; assembling a high-tunnel greenhouse; purchasing liability insurance for the farm; building fencing to protect small crop acreage from wildlife; establishing a recordkeeping system; and constructing a personal webpage to market produce.
An indirect benefit of attending the workshops was the networks that the farmers established with local resource persons and each other. These networks provided them with the latest information on new programs and helped them improve their profitability.
Future plans are in the works to conduct another series of risk management workshops focusing on marketing opportunities beginning in 2016. With these tools, local farmers can build the confidence they need to deal with both the risks and the exciting opportunities for the future.
James Hartsfield is an area extension agent specializing in Small Farms Management covering Sampson and Duplin counties.