Business Plan and Extension Program Strategy

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1 Business Plan and Extension Program Strategy Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ontario County Agriculture Economic Development Program Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ontario County 480 North Main Street Canandaigua, NY (585) August 2010 Executive summary Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ontario County will continue to provide leadership in agriculture economic development, applying key educational and coordination initiatives to promote agriculture development in Ontario County. Our efforts are rooted in six priorities: 1) Maintaining the active farm land base by keeping farming a more viable and preferred economic activity. 2) Enhancing relations between local government and farm managers. 3) Introducing new crop, product, and farm-based income-generating opportunities to sustain Ontario County s agriculture diversity. 4) Fostering public outreach about agriculture and access to local food. 5) Cultivating progressive and sustainable business & environmental practices. 6) Encouraging new and expanding farm entities while promoting agriculture workforce development. This business plan describes the unique capacity of Cornell Cooperative Extension to lead agriculture economic development and our proactive and timely approaches to the priorities. Cornell Cooperative Extension Agriculture Economic Development Program Business Plan August 2010 Page 1

2 General Description of the Extension Agriculture Economic Development Program Mission Use all Cornell Cooperative Extension resources in a timely and proactive way to enhance the development of farms and agriculture businesses in Ontario County. Through education, we will maximize farm profitability, increase access to and utilization of local farm products, improve onfarm employment and identify ways to apply appropriate and sustainable technologies to farm operations. This effort will achieve the economic, environmental, and quality-of-life objectives of all Ontario County communities. Vision The Extension Agriculture Economic Development Program is improving marketing channels used by all producers, retaining and establishing a net gain of farms and farm jobs, diversifying agriculture production and related processing entities, securing economic development funds and incentive packages for farm-based projects, introducing appropriate agriculture technology and alternative energy applications for farms and facilities, facilitating local government capacity to foster and enhance agriculture, and increasing community-based support for agriculture through media and other public relations channels. Who we are With strong ties to Cornell University and other Land Grant universities across the United States, the Extension Agriculture Economic Development Program provides farmers and other rural landowners with a wide range of services (see Products and Services). The information we share is researched, non-commercial, and practical. We recommend practices that minimize negative impacts on the environment, promote self-reliance, encourage responsible animal husbandry & welfare, and enhance profitability. Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ontario County is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, established by County Law 224 as a subgovernmental agency, governed by a volunteer Board of Directors. The Agriculture Economic Development Program is part of the overall Agriculture and Natural Resources Program, one of three major program areas in this organization. Cornell Cooperative Extension is the only county-level entity tied to the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and thus the only agriculture information resource with a research and experiential base. It is highly reputable as a source of unbiased guidelines for the agriculture industry. Program history The Agriculture Economic Development Program has existed for 10 years. In the early years, the Agriculture Economic Development Specialist position had been filled by multiple individuals, leading to inconsistent programming. Since 2007, staffing has stabilized significantly and the program has featured highly-visible and proactive education in general agriculture business development, public relations, sustainable agriculture, new farm business development, emerging crops and markets, and local equine industry development. Cornell Cooperative Extension Agriculture Economic Development Program Business Plan August 2010 Page 2

3 The local Agriculture Economic Development program is supplemented by three regional Extension teams - the NorthWest NY Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops Team, the Cornell Vegetable Program and the Finger Lakes Grape Program. These teams provide production and farm management expertise with 12 professional educators, each specializing in various aspects of the agriculture industry. Customers Our primary customers are farm business owners and employees, prospective farmers, county agency personnel and municipal government officials and representatives. Our secondary customers are farm product processing businesses, farm support businesses, and mass media professionals. Products and Services Timely workshops, seminars, conferences and clinics addressing farm development issues. Publications, articles, and radio / electronic communications about key aspects of agriculture. Researching appropriate business contacts, sources of capital and other funding for innovative agriculture-related projects, and networking existing economic development assets with primary and secondary audiences. Educational assistance and consultation for new or expanding farm operations. Referrals to appropriate resources and agency programs for all agriculture enterprises dairy, livestock, field crops, produce, pasture, forest-based products, and horticulture. Assistance with identifying grants and grant writing for farms; business plan development for agriculture or farm product processing businesses. Site visits to provide advice and referrals as circumstances permit. Tips on farm and forest tax management, farm labor, agriculture laws and policies, farmland preservation, energy management, and dealing with neighbor pressures on farmland. Assistance with developing and accomplishing direct marketing objectives, web site creation, farm market sales, and other innovative marketing plans. Telephone consultations for all aspects of farming and rural land management. How this plan was developed: In a series of four farmer meetings ( ), coordinated by Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Cornell University Department of Rural Sociology, ten indicators of agriculture viability were identified and endorsed for the future of agriculture in Ontario County, NY. This list was prioritized and further refined by the Agriculture Economic Development Advisory Team in early Cornell Cooperative Extension Agriculture Economic Development Program Business Plan August 2010 Page 3

4 Agriculture Economic Development Priorities for Agriculture in Ontario County and Extension s Response The Agriculture Economic Development Program is positioned to deliver compelling education and coordination to the following agriculture development priorities. Below is a list of six priorities that will advance the agriculture sector in Ontario County and the projected approach to address the priorities: Priority 1: Maintaining the active farm land base by keeping farming a more viable and preferred economic activity. Public policies often undervalue the importance of a substantial agriculture land base in the community, not realizing that farmland represents a tax profit, maintains diverse jobs and ancillary businesses, and forms a core for food security and sustainability. Conversion of agriculture land to residential or commercial use is a widespread development pattern, even in areas where the soils are of prime agriculture importance, and cannot be subsequently converted back to farm use. Community leaders often consider agriculture a comparatively weak economic activity and fail to develop municipal policies to protect agriculture resources. Ontario County still has, but must work to maintain, a strong infrastructure that supports agricultural viability. A strong agriculture infrastructure enables farmers to have all their inputs and services within a 25-mile radius. 1) Convince community leaders of the actual and potential economic power associated with agriculture activities, such as small-scale diversified farming, horse farm development, commercial horticulture, produce and dairy farming. 2) Assist Ontario County Economic Development / IDA offices with large-scale agriculture and food processing projects as needed and appropriate. 3) Provide educational outreach on behalf of the Agriculture Enhancement Board regarding farmland protection and preservation; specifically to town governments, the local media, and local businesses. 4) Pursue and develop regional initiatives that enhance USDA- and state-inspected livestock processing, commercial vegetable processing, and small-scale food processing entities. Priority 2: Enhancing relations between local government and farm managers. Ontario County public policy tends to acknowledge the importance of agriculture, but proactive steps by local governments to support individual farms are not as common as they could be. Cornell Cooperative Extension Agriculture Economic Development Program Business Plan August 2010 Page 4

5 Farms can create noises and odors that residents feel town government should be responsible for controlling. Local governments can address farm noise, dust, and odors with local laws that do not impede agriculture operations and meet community expectations. Towns often welcome direct involvement by farmers in local-level entities, but farmers are still under-represented in local government. Most local government representatives do not have farm experience or understanding of farm needs (manure application & storage, fencing, road use, and drainage concerns for example). 1) Provide educational support to towns to fully realize their Comprehensive Plan agriculture-related recommendations. Host hot issue seminars for municipal officials related to local law effects on agriculture, farm practices, and public agriculture land policies. 2) Research and offer model text and case studies related to local government support for agriculture. 3) Meet with town planning and agriculture advisory personnel to discuss and foster a local government environment that is favorable to agriculture. 4) Prepare and disseminate education for farm owners about municipal service, local planning, and public officer duties and responsibilities. Priority 3: Introducing new crop, product, and farm-based income-generating opportunities to sustain Ontario County s agriculture diversity. Ontario County continues to be a leader in agricultural diversity in New York. Income from dairy farming comprises half the farm revenues, but all other farm revenues come from several dozen different farm products and services. New crop and livestock opportunities are of interest to many farm owners, and they require education about the cultivation, marketing, and risk management associated with specialty crops and diverse livestock. Value-added processing facilities (small to mid-sized) help producers by providing intermediate-scale local buying opportunities. Recreational leasing and tourism provides additional income-generating activities small and large-scale farms. 1) Conduct regular workshops and meetings that introduce new crop opportunities that have verifiable marketability. Host twilight meetings and field days to visit and explore different farm product options. Cornell Cooperative Extension Agriculture Economic Development Program Business Plan August 2010 Page 5

6 2) Introduce consumers to new and lesser-known crops, and evaluate receptivity and economic data to provide farmers with concrete income projections. Work with NYS Agricultural Experiment Station personnel to ensure new crop & variety opportunities are being shared with local growers as appropriate. 3) Connect farm operators exploring new crops and production techniques with grants, business connections, and researchers. 4) Work with partner agencies (Planning & Research, OCED/IDA) to attract value-added processing entities appropriate to the scale and type of farming in Ontario County. Priority 4: Fostering public outreach about agriculture and access to local food. Ontario County farmers recognize the gap between the world of agriculture and the world of the non-farm public. Farmers tend to be frustrated about the high level of misunderstanding, ignorance, and unawareness about agriculture s efforts to provide environmental quality and inexpensive food, in a highly-regulated industry. Following on significant developments in local food production, distribution, and consumption at the family level, businesses and institutions are still seeking local food, but need greater qualities than any one farm can manage. Consumers who are buying small qualities of local food could buy more if they understood how to preserve food safely and cost-effectively. 1) Increase the distribution of local food guides and information about utilizing local food, such as home food preservation instruction and coordination, mass media profiles of local food & farms, and explore the use of social media to promote local food. 2) Train farmers to be able to sell to local intermediate-scale markets such as school systems, restaurants, grocery stores and produce distributors. Assist farmers in collaborative marketing entities, such as joint ventures, cooperatives and marketing groups to take advantage of larger-scale marketing opportunities. 3) Extend farm market opportunities into winter months, with education on winter storage crops, off-season marketing, and year-round farm planning. 4) Increase public awareness of the importance of farm resources (land, soils, related agribusiness) and sustainability measures taken by farms. Priority 5: Cultivating progressive and sustainable agriculture business and environmental practices. Many farm owners in Ontario County are interested in sustainability practices, to ensure the long-term viability of their operations. Larger-scale farm owners are concerned that most measures of sustainability exclude them unfairly. Cornell Cooperative Extension Agriculture Economic Development Program Business Plan August 2010 Page 6

7 Farmers need to increase their business expertise regarding financial competence and planning, business structures, strategic planning, and farm transitioning. Small-scale renewable energy sources are of great interest to farm managers, yet the technology, investment strategy, and criteria for choosing a renewable energy system are not well understood. 1) Develop an executive training-type program for sustainable agriculture, to include topics like soil health, energy use, personnel, financial management, and community relations, among many others. 2) Delineate sustainable agriculture practices for various farm scales large, medium-sized, and small. Use plain language documents and scales to help farms asses and then improve their sustainability. 3) Introduce guidelines and decision tools related small-scale energy systems, like solar, wind, biodiesel, and geothermal power on farms and rural properties. 4) Encourage and disseminate progressive agriculture practices that meet the strictest standards of sustainability. 5) Foster a greater awareness and capacity regarding farm sustainability beyond environmental practices to social and financial factors. Priority 6: Encouraging new and expanding farm entities while promoting agriculture workforce development. New farm development in the region has become a cornerstone program for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ontario County. Our program is involved as a major contributor to Cornell s Beginning Farmer Program. There is a pool of individuals and families interested in, and capable of owning and managing new or transferred farms and related business. Several sectors of farming are seeing accelerated growth, including horse facilities, small-scale market farms, and fruit farms. Ontario County s farm owners are typically eager to assist new and prospective farm owners. Many farm owners are eager to foster immigration policy reform to provide a more stable, trained, and legal workforce. 1) Continue annual new farmer training programs and weekly consultations. Cornell Cooperative Extension Agriculture Economic Development Program Business Plan August 2010 Page 7

8 2) Work with Young Farmer programs to build business management and transition capacity while they develop production skills on the farm. 3) Increase the visibility of available agriculture land, farms for sale, and places to acquire equipment and machinery know-how. 4) Introduce production models that have fewer financial and competence barriers for new farms. Develop an educational directory of realistic options for farm financial support in the region: personal capital, loan sources, and other financing collaborators. 5) Increase community awareness of and appreciation for the importance of effective national and local immigration policies to stabilize workforce availability. Income and expenses As of August 2010, the core financial support for the Agriculture Economic Development Program comes from a county budget allocation to Cornell Cooperative Extension in Ontario County. These funds are apportioned in accordance with salary, administrative, and related cost projections, determined by the Executive Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ontario County and approved by the Board of Directors. In addition to the county allocation, the Agriculture Economic Development program derives income from participant fees, contracts, donations, grants, and fees for special non-contractual projects within the Cornell Cooperative Extension system. Employment benefits are paid by the Cornell Cooperative Extension system as part of the New York State Contract Colleges of Cornell University. The primary program expense is the salary for the Agriculture Economic Development Specialist, a senior staff position classified as Extension Issue Leader. Additional expenses include administrative staff support (approximately 15% of the Specialist salary), office supplies, communications expenses, teaching resources, travel, and professional development. The Agriculture Economic Development program budget is part of the overall Agriculture and Natural Resources Program budget at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ontario County. All income and expenses are tracked and accounted by the Finance Manager, in cooperation with the Program Leader and Administrative Assistant. Marketing The Agriculture Economic Development Program will be marketed through traditional and innovative channels including, but not limited to, the following: Direct and USPS mail to an updated agriculture enrollment mailing list News and media releases (print and electronic) Web site calendar posting Brochure and flyer distribution at farm supply businesses Announcements at stakeholder meetings Production team newsletter announcements (direct mailed to customers) Advisory Team Cornell Cooperative Extension Agriculture Economic Development Program Business Plan August 2010 Page 8

9 The Agriculture Economic Development Program receives its primary consultations from a formal advisory team, comprised of individuals, including farmers, agriculture and food business owners, agency personnel, and representatives from related entities (such as the Agriculture Enhancement Board and Farm Bureau). This team was formed in June 2007 and meets about 4 times per year to direct significant program decisions of the Extension Agriculture Economic Development Program. Cornell Cooperative Extension Agriculture Economic Development Program Business Plan August 2010 Page 9

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