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Financial management tips for a healthy farm, with Julia Shanks

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Though I’ve highlighted this before on this show, it bears repeating. So many of the stress factors on farms are caused by money. Either not being able to generate enough, being in debt, not having control over the expenses and cash flows, or another one that I see time and again, not paying yourself a salary and just hoping for a profit at the end of the year.

Though this is hardly the most interesting part of the work for anyone I know who farms, it doesn’t change the fact that a farm is a business and in order for it to function well and enable us to do the parts that we love, we need to make sure the financial side is as healthy as the land.
Here today to shed light on the unique challenges and opportunities that farmers face on the financial management side of their work is Julia Shanks.

Julia works with food and agricultural entrepreneurs and organizations as a business strategist, analyst and educator. She brings a broad range of professional experiences to her clients, with a background that ranges from pilot to chef to serial entrepreneur.

She combines the practicality of an accountant with the creativity of a chef. Through her consulting practice, Julia helps food and farm businesses maximize profits and streamline operations through business planning, feasibility studies and operational audits. She provides financial management trainings to farmers and business advisors who work with farmers. Julia shares her tools and knowledge more broadly in her second book, The Farmer’s Office. This book is a practical hands-on guide to help farmers think like entrepreneurs so they can build financially sustainable businesses. 

In this episode Julia and I dig into the common pitfalls that she has observed from the farmer clients she works with and we try to unpack the myths and misconceptions about accounting and financial terms that are at the root of these mistakes. 

We take a particular look at the all-to-common debt cycles that many farmers are in as well as what it takes to get out of them. Julia also calls attention to the risks and variables that are inherent to farm enterprises before we get into the tools and resources that she considers to be essential for financial success on a farm. 

We cover a lot of ground from doing financial assessments of new ventures and investments, to ways of establishing fiscal resilience in these uncertain times.

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