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The Organic Farmer's Business Handbook: A Complete Guide to Managing Finances, Crops, and Staff--and Making a Profit [Anglais] [Broché]

Richard Wiswall

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The Organic Farmer's Business Handbook Contrary to popular belief, a good living can be made on an organic farm. What's required is farming smarter, not harder. Wiswall shares advice on how to make vegetable production more efficient, better manage employees and finances, and turn a profit.

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.6 étoiles sur 5  30 commentaires
110 internautes sur 122 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Incomplete, poorly organized, and occasionally just plain wrong 29 janvier 2010
Par Bart Hall - Publié sur
Wiswall's book makes a decent start, and the costing templates are pretty good. It's nicely illustrated. The writing is appropriately colloquial and flows reasonably well within chapters.

The chapter structure, however, is rather incoherent, interspersing chapters on assorted aspects of cost accounting and very simple cash flow management with others on marketing, time management, and employees. A chapter on office paper flow is followed by one that lumps together retirement planning and business spending. Then comes one on greenhouses and field production efficiencies. The next chapter discusses writing a business plan, and then a final (3-page) chapter on estate planning. Huh?

The sections on production management will be quite helpful to people who've not considered such things systematically, but they do contain some rather sloppy errors. For example, on p. 100 he talks about setting the wheel spacings on all tractors to 60 inches (which is the same as we use for our vegetable production), yet in the very next paragraph he describes large plants such as squash as being on a "6-foot spacing overall."

Similarly, his basic stuff on office organization will be helpful to growers who are currently doing little more than handing a grocery sack full of receipts to their tax person once a year. Unfortunately, his ideas on managing the flow of funds between family and farm are somewhat convoluted. Intuit's accounting programs (which he uses) have easier ways of addressing the same problem. And using the same credit card for business and family purchases is just a giant make-work project.

Wiswall is way out of his depth in regard to all he writes about capital management. Since this book is obviously written for people with little management experience, how is it that a book published in 2009 is talking about interest yields of 5% for Treasury bonds and bank CDs. Bondholders will get clobbered when interest rates rise from their current multi-generational lows; and how many *sound* banks are offering 5% on a CD? Not only that, but average long-term returns of 8% in the stock market? That simply does not happen for people who invest when market valuations (in relation to corporate income) are as high as they are now. Following such simplistic advice will be hazardous to your money.

Which brings me to the most egregious error of all. On page 95 Wiswall declares "Tax avoidance is the main reason I capitalize my farm business. If I have a less profitable year and I'm not in need of a tax advantage, any machinery I purchase must strongly increase farm profitability; that is, the machinery must pay for itself quickly by saving other costs."

Tax avoidance should have absolutely nothing to do with capital purchases. Either they make sense, or they don't. He admits he's more careful about big-ticket purchases in a weak year than in a strong one. What kind of management is that? Such thinking leads to clusters of poor capital allocation that threaten business viability over the long term.

This book is written from the perspective of someone who thinks like a production manager. The great weakness of most family farms is that the owners don't think like business owners, or even CEOs. Their management and decision-making generally remains at the level of a production manager, or perhaps a VP Operations. Wiswall's book provides no departure from that managerial framework and does not effectively address the higher-level managerial challenges faced by most family farms. He nibbles at Holistic Management with his comments on goal setting at the beginning, but thereafter offers absolutely nothing from the excellent HM decision-making model. By all means visit [...] for some vastly better guidance.

That said, if you can't pick up two hundred bucks of tips from this thirty-dollar book ... you probably shouldn't be farming. It's definitely worth the money, and the companion CD will save you many hours of attempting to build the same thing yourself. Just treat his advice on higher-level management with lots of diligent skepticism, and do not expect any sort of logical and coherent over-arching structure to the writing.
27 internautes sur 29 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Great book, plus a response to the negative review 16 octobre 2010
Par Beth Spaugh Barber - Publié sur
First, the book is written for farmers (and other small business owners/wannabees) who have not felt comfortable with indepth business analysis. He keeps the business analysis at a simple, attainable level, with recommended resources for those who want to dig deeper or do more complex planning. It is written as a farmer for farmers, and as such, it is easy for us to understand, appreciate, and apply. I have been fortunate to participate in workshops led by Wiswall so much of the material is not new to me, and the need for this information is not new, but I still felt having it together in print is a worthwhile purchase. Having his notes from the management workshops, being aware of basic business management needs, and still struggling with equipment systems, the production chapter was actually my favorite.

In response to the negative review, the chapter structure read fine to me. It is a read through and then go back and do exercises book. Yes it is written from a production manager's perspective, which is why the rest of us production managers can accept and apply what he is saying. It makes sense and appears to have value as presented from a production manager to production managers. The statement that his tractor tires are on 60" centers for 6 foot beds threw me at first also, until I read in the production chapter that he overlaps the wheel tracks half width, resulting in 6 foot spacing to provide a margin of error in subsequent field operations. Not a mistake after all - just needed clarification at that point. I also felt that the level of detail in Wiswall's business planning forms and exercises was perfect for smaller farmers who have not yet adopted formal written business management practices - he makes it attainable rather than overwhelming. He keeps the financial interpretation at the appropriate level. If anything, the enterprise budgets are still beyond my information collection skills. And the complaint about bond and stock returns - Come on, farmers are not so stupid that we are not aware of current returns or would pick up the phone and call a discount broker and place an order without more research. And he tells the reader to get more indepth advice before making investments. The point he is making is that having off-farm investments can be a good thing, rather than having all your assets in the farm.

I have not managed to write down what I take to market and bring home, or how we spend our time on the vegetables. My bottom line has always been acceptable, and I can do those enterprise budgets for my livestock because I have one (clean) place where I weigh and label and write down inventory, and time inputs are repetitive, but I have not been able to track individual crops yet. Wiswall's explanation of how he does it makes it look doable, so, next year??

If you do not have a clear goal for your business (more detailed than make money or provide for the family), some sort of business plan, do not know which products are making you the most money, or just want to fine tune your operation and know you have a handle on what's going on, the book is worthwhile.
21 internautes sur 22 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Organic Farming Handbook: It isn't Luck! Green Values and a Business Plan To Make A Buck 13 octobre 2009
Par T. Colman - Publié sur
Author Richard Wiswall has been farming for over 25 years on a cool organic farm in Vermont.

He has done farmers everywhere a service with this new book on running a profitable organic farming business.

Fine writing, good examples of what he's writing about, and a workbook style approach made Wiswall's book come alive for me.

I'd say he's written the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Organic Farmers, but there are at least ten habits farmers can learn about by reading this book.

And as someone who runs a small business, I would recommend the book to anyone who wants to succeed at building a business, growing a rich life for themselves and their community.

Loved the Tale of Two Brassicas where Wiswall tells how he learned the difference between growing kale and broccoli.
15 internautes sur 15 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Farming is a BUSINESS. 22 janvier 2010
Par One Straw - Publié sur
Probably the most important book I'll read this year. Why? For Sustainable Farming to be TRULY Sustainable, farmers must be able to earn a living -- and that means healthcare, retirement funds, and college funds for the kids (those are costs of production too!). This book gives you the record keeping tools to get you there. Farming is a business - treat it like one. At least for an hour a week or so...

Wiswall has earned his title as the "Uber Bean Counter of Organic Farming". This is all the UN-sexy boring stuff about Organic Farming. But, if you want to move from gardening to farming, and by that I mean earning money and scaling up, then you NEED to read this book. Why? Because of the all books on organic farming I have read, Wiswall's is the only one that tells you the hard truths. YES a business plan is important. YES itemize your receipts. DO a cash flow analysis. The difference between the a successful organic farmer and an EX-organic farmer comes down to record keeping and their knowledge and comfort with the IRS's Schedule F form. Can you make a living --and you owe it to your family to include health benefits, retirement savings and a college fund in your profit planning- I will give it a qualified YES. OF course we all know it takes massive know how on the procedure side --how to grow things well with less input- but even more so on the business side. Gardening is a hobby, farming is a BUSINESS. Not the most fun book, but HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Start planning for profit, rather than making do with "what's left over".
15 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 ask yourself the important questions 9 janvier 2010
Par Siri Erickson-Brown - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
This book covers a lot of ground, from basic bookkeeping to crop-specific enterprise budgets. But my favorite thing about it is that is starts by asking the reader to consider his reasons for farming, and to use the resulting answers to create a personal statement of purpose. Even if you aren't a farmer, I would recommend reading the first two chapters and going through the process of prioritizing your values.
I own a small farm, and with three years of trial and error experience now under my belt, I found this book an incredibly useful distillation of some of the lessons I've already learned as well as some great new ideas for making my farm more productive and financially sustainable.
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