Home / Farm Management / Farm management instructor tells would-be farmers they can succeed

Farm management instructor tells would-be farmers they can succeed

Agriculture.com Staff 07/07/2010 @ 9:08am

Dan Miller is a farm business management instructor at Riverland Community College in southern Minnesota. Ten years ago, he was like many of the participants in a Farm Beginnings class Miller spoke to in Plainview, Minnesota, Thursday evening.

He and his wife were living in a rented apartment with more debts than assets on their balance sheet.

"I'm really a farmer myself. Ten years ago I wanted to get into farming myself," he told the group that braved forecasts of slippery roads to share their goals and farm plans with each other.

"You've got some obstacles," Miller acknowledged. One of the biggest is the high value of land, he said, but with a solid, realistic business plan, it's still possible to get a start in agriculture.

"You can definitely overcome the obstacles in your path with vision," Miller said.

Miller obviously has an off-farm job. He works with about 50 farm families helping them put together business plans and track the financial performance of their farms. He's also on the advisory board for the Farm Beginnings program, which is run by the Land Stewardship Project of Minnesota.

But his farm isn't a hobby. It's a viable business that has grown in size and net worth in the past ten years. Today Miller and wife own 400 acres of land and rent another 150 for a controlled grazing operation that produces purebred Angus cattle. Their farm has nearly 100 cows. It also provides custom grazing to about 80 Holstein heifers each year.

Miller, who had previously worked as an extension agent in Minnesota and Wisconsin, said his first break came in 1993 when the Millers had a chance to buy 120 acres of land listed by a real estate broker. "We just offered and counteroffered and negotiated and bought it," he recalls. Most of the land was in CRP. To make income off it quickly, they rented out grazing for dairy heifers, which they still do today.

In planning for your dream farming business, it's very important to have financial projections that are accurate, he said. "I've seen some financial projections I wouldn't trust," he said. It's better to correct errors on paper than to find out the hard way when your farm business is running, he said. "Paper mistakes are the ones you want to make. Do your homework."

Miller also questioned the conventional wisdom that starting farmers should buy machinery and livestock first and purchase land last. If you are interested in controlled grazing and want to use conservation programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to make improvements, you almost have to own land, he said.

"For EQIP, you either have to have a long term lease or own it. I'd rather own it," he said.

For information on Miller's farm management service visit the Web site: www.mgt.org

To find Dan Miller's listing on this Web site, click on Farm Business Management, then on Instructors, then on Southeast. Miller works for Spring Valley Riverland Community College.

For more information on the Farm Beginnings program, visit this Land Stewardship Projects Web page: www.landstewardshipproject.org/farmbeg.html

In planning for your dream farming business, it's very important to have financial projections that are accurate.

E-mail Dan: dan.looker@meredith.com

Write us at agonline@agriculture.com

Dan Miller is a farm business management instructor at Riverland Community College in southern Minnesota. Ten years ago, he was like many of the participants in a Farm Beginnings class Miller spoke to in Plainview, Minnesota, Thursday evening.

CancelPost Comment
MORE FROM AGRICULTURE.COM STAFF more +

Farm and ranch risk management resources By: 07/07/2010 @ 9:10am Government resources USDA Risk Management Agency Download free insurance program and…

Major types of crop insurance policies By: 07/07/2010 @ 9:10am Crop insurance for major field crops comes in two types: yield-based coverage that pays an…

Marketing 101 - Are options the right tool… By: 07/07/2010 @ 9:10am "If you are looking for a low risk way to protect yourself against prices moving either higher or…

MEDIA CENTERmore +
This container should display a .swf file. If not, you may need to upgrade your Flash player.
Case IH Magnum Rowtrac