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The CSA Benchmark Project: How Well Is My Operation REALLY Doing?

With benchmarking, it’s as if farmers can peer into the financial results of many CSA farms in order to understand how their business financial performance compares to others. That data will help CSA farmers identify where they can improve business practices to increase profitability.

May 17, 2012

Description

Farm Credit East, part of the nationwide Farm Credit System of lending cooperatives, has made loans to many farms that use a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model.  Generally CSAs work by collecting up-front capital from consumers before the planting season, which buys them a weekly portion of the farm’s bounty during the growing months. The basic CSA business model is now a widespread direct-to-consumer marketing strategy.

But how is a farmer to know if their operation’s financial performance is adequate, or find out how they can improve their profitability? As part of their strategy to serve the needs of their farmer-members, Farm Credit East has aggregated and analyzed the data from a sample of their CSA borrowers, and has established some preliminary financial benchmarks and performance standards.

With benchmarking, it’s as if farmers can peer into the financial results of many CSA farms in order to understand how their business financial performance compares to others. That data will help CSA farmers identify where they can improve business practices to increase profitability.

This webinar illustrates what you need to measure (the key evaluation factors),  what expectations can be set from comparison to best practices (benchmarking), and what management strategies can help move financial performance to a higher level (implementation of leading edge practices).

Recording

Presentation Slides

Other Resources

Presenter Bios

Gary Matteson

Gary MattesonGary Matteson works for the Farm Credit Council in Washington, DC, which is the trade organization of the Farm Credit System. Farm Credit is a nationwide network of borrower-owned lending institutions, providing credit for the nation’s farmers and ranchers.

As the Vice President for Young, Beginning, Small Farmer Programs and Outreach, Gary seeks to identify and meet the needs of the next generation of farmers and ranchers as a part of Farm Credit’s enduring mission of service to agriculture and rural America. Farm Credit provided some $7.7 billion to young farmers, $12 billion for beginning farmers, and $14.2 billion in financing for small farmers in 2008.

Until recently Gary was a small farmer operating a wholesale greenhouse business in New Hampshire, including raising cattle for the local freezer beef market. He holds bachelor’s degrees in agronomy and biology from the University of Connecticut.

Erin Pirro

Erin PirroErin Pirro is a farm business consultant and assistant vice president for Farm Credit East, the Northeast’s leading financial services cooperative for agriculture. Her work is centered on successfully helping customers analyze their businesses from many angles in order to pinpoint methods for improving their profitability. In addition, Pirro leads First Pioneer’s Agricultural Retail Benchmark, which is a comprehensive program of data analysis and benchmark reporting as well as a customized seminar and consulting meeting for owners of farm markets, garden centers, nurseries, wineries and other ag retail businesses.

Active in other capacities for the financial cooperative, Pirro has participated in college recruiting and an internship program to introduce college students to Farm Credit careers. She is also a guest speaker at university agricultural and economics seminars and has served on the board of the Connecticut Farm Bureau and is the Chief Financial Officer for the American Society of Agricultural Consultants. In addition, Pirro is chair of the Connecticut Young Farmers and is also involved in Connecticut Agriculture Day at the State Capitol.

Pirro received her undergraduate degree in resource economics and her master’s degree in agricultural economics from the University of Connecticut. She was one of four young farmers nationwide to be selected as a 2010 McCloy Fellow in Agriculture. Erin and her husband, Jonathan Pirro, make their home in Granby. Their family farm raises and markets Connecticut Grown Lamb and provides shearing services in southern New England.

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