Originally posted March 27, 2022.
I am a bit late writing my update this week as I had a very busy week and time got away from me. After a few months hibernating at home, working away on my business plan for my bookkeeping business, I have noticed a big change in my routine with the opportunity to get out and about to kick off this spring season. I was busy working on my client's year end, ordering chicks, arranging for the ducks to arrive, trimming the hooves on the goats and clearing trees for the expansion of our farm yard. The local community café, run by volunteers at the Anglican church hall in New Germany, reopened this month as well and I've been tagging along with some of our friends to get out and meet more of our neighbors. This café is really enjoyable to attend and a welcome dose of socializing for someone who works from home in the country.
Kicking off our 2022 Projects
This winter, we took full advantage of the time off over the winter to get in some serious R&R. Rest is useful as it provides a time for reflection as well as relaxation and a chance to rethink all the ideas and conversations we had over the summer about where our energy should be invested in the next year. With the upheaval of our lives last year in moving to Nova Scotia, our energy was pretty depleted by December and we were ready for a break. As I mentioned previously, we have determined that this year our overarching goal for the year is to stabilize ourselves so we are in a good position both mentally and financially to take on some bigger projects.
Project 1: 2021 Financial Review and Budgeting for 2022
It also gave me a chance to finish our own financial review and clean up our books for our first year-end as a farm. This gave us a really good picture of how we spent our money last year and how much the real cost of everything we did shaped our financial position. Overall, we are pretty happy with how things were managed last year. I'll be going over a full run down of our spending, both personal and business, in an upcoming blog post to provide a realistic view of our investment so far for those readers who may be in a similar position or want to embark on their own farm journey.
Prioritizing this work also led to the completion of our first HST return as well as completing both of our tax returns well before the due date. Its hard to prioritize doing this sort of work when the weather is nice, so it was a good goal for us personally and financially as we continue to grow our farm to get this obligation out of the way.
Project 2: Prioritizing Small Farm Projects for 2022
We may be limiting our expansion this year so I can focus on growing my bookkeeping business and work on our farm plan, but this doesn't mean we won't be sitting around all summer. Our goals this year are loosely as follows:
Project 3: Create a Farm Business Plan
A big part of starting a farm is having a plan. No matter the size of the farm, a plan helps you to prioritize your projects and, if well thought through, save you money over the long term.
Before we moved to Nova Scotia, I was referred to a national organization called Farm Credit Canada by my sister, Chesed. Chesed was enthusiastic about the organization because she used the financial management software that is available as a free resource. This was helping her by providing a platform to track costs and plan their spending as a family of 6. Their primary goal as a family was to grow most of the food necessary to feed the family, whether it was through agricultural or animal production.
After taking a look at their website, I went down the veritable rabbit hole that is the FCC. The main take away I can provide about Farm Credit Canada is that they exist to provide mentorship and educational resources for those looking to start a farm business. Once you have a plan established and you've got a relationship with them, they may be able to support your business plan with really competitive interest rates (or sometimes, 0% interest loans) to finance your operation.
I had connected back in Ontario with the local branch in Kingston, but I reached out again to the local office here in Kentville to try to start up the conversation again now that we had land. The experience with the customer service representative at the Kentville branch was very positive, and I was able to come away from that conversation with two major takeaways.
The first takeaway was that I was connected with my own business liaison officer who called me just a few days later to talk about our plans for our farm. Through this conversation, I came to understand that there were a few steps I would need to complete before we jump any further into developing our farm. These included:
Since I already have most of our farm business plan created, it provided me with the guidance I needed as a new farmer to reflect on our current position and what we would have the time, energy and money for in the next year or two.
I found it gave me a bit of breathing room to sit back and say to myself that maybe the best thing we could do this year is plan for the following year, since this year I am already undertaking a fairly large project in setting up my off-farm income through bookkeeping and we still need to work on developing our home life to be extra comfortable and relatively maintenance free.
I'd rather give ourselves a year now to work with them on reviewing our plan and learn from their network than just bulldoze my way through it because I am impatient. As a bonus, my business manager was super friendly and very enthusiastic about our business idea, he said he was glad to hear of new butchers starting up because there is a huge need for more of us in the province. He sent me a follow up email with plenty of resources to make sure I draft a solid plan. My goal is to get him this business plan by the end of this month so he can review it and I can start working on revisions, amendments and additions that I may need to do.
The second takeaway takes me to our episode this week on 2 Kids Off Grid, as I connected with Angie Lafferty at Farm Credit Canada to learn more about the resources the FCC provides and her recommendations to those starting out farming in Nova Scotia. This interview ran a little longer than what my weekly segment at 88.7 CoveFM, so I split it into two parts, the second will air later this week on Friday.
In the interview, I did promise to provide some easy access links for those who want to learn more:
Just two working class kids living off-grid. Follow us on our journey building a sustainable farm and butcher shop in the South Shore of Nova Scotia, Canada.