Published Sep 12, 2014

A Little Fall Back Friday with SIP and Kate Edwards

By Julie Wheelock

I know, I missed the TBT deadline by about 12 hours.  So we’re going to go with a little Fall Back Friday.  I found this old picture of me from a few years back.  It was taken when my days were a little more carefree.  The slight breeze carelessly blowing the long tresses of my hair about my face.  I didn’t have a thing to worry about except should I get up at 10 or wait until noon.

model picture

Not really me, but I think you probably already guessed that.

It’s kind of fun to take a look at your past and consider how you got to where you are today.  Learning from the past, whether it’s from failures or successes, allows you to continually refine who you want to be.  Same applies to a farm business.  Reflecting on where you were a few years ago compared to where you are now can help to plan for your farm’s future.  How did I get to where and I am today and how can those experiences take me where I want to be tomorrow?

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Kate on her Wild Woods Farm.

I had a great conversation yesterday with Kate Edwards of Wild Woods Farm located near Solon.  Kate started her two year enrollment in the Savings Incentive Program in 2012 with 18 members in her CSA.  She graduated from the program in 2013 with 110 members.   I’m sure she didn’t have time to let the breeze blow carelessly through her hair during those two years, but through dedication to her craft and commitment to the SIP program she learned, adapted, and took the next step to make her farm vision a reality.

Two very interesting things stuck out to me during my visit with Kate.  First, she indicated that the draw for her to apply for the Savings Incentive Program wasn’t really the potential $2400 match.  It was the mentor and networking aspect of the program.  Participants are required to meet with their mentor three times the first year, but Kate and her mentor met far more that that.  She also noted that participating in SIP really got her plugged-in to PFI’s organization and form relationships with other farmers who wanted her to be successful.  “It was like having my own cheerleading team wanting me to succeed with my farm.”

The second thing that caught my attention was Kate’s comment about writing her business plan.  She constantly had plans floating around in her head, but being in the program forced her to get one cemented down on paper.  “While my business plan is always evolving, it’s helpful to have a plan documented see how my farm has grown and changed.”  The path to where you want to go is clearer if you can see where you have been.

Kate Edwards (2)

Wild Woods Farm is a CSA located near Solon, Iowa.

The Savings Incentive Program is designed to keep participants accountable in working towards building a profitable, successful farm.  Regular deposits into a savings account, quarterly reviews, and a business plan are all due in a timely manner so those enrolled need to be serious about their farming venture.  But the reward is worth it.  A possible $2400 match to an already saved $2400 to be used for a farm purchase, a completed business plan, a ton of first-hand advice and knowledge can make the difference between being a profitable farm and one that’s struggling.  Kate’s advice to other beginning farmers who are considering applying for the program this year is, “No matter where you are right now, it’s incredibly helpful to have a plan written down and someone to help you along the way.”

Interested in applying or want more information?  Click here.  Applications are due October 3.