Have you ever written a business plan?
Currently, I am working on the third one of my career. The first was for my undergraduate class in Ecological Entrepreneurship. It was fun; a plan for an edible landscaping business called The IncrEdible Yard (I dare you to use that name!). I knew nothing about edible landscaping, mostly it was a cool exercise to collect surveys at the Vermont Garden & Flower Show, make charts, and think about the neat idea. It wasn’t real. Even now, I know just enough about gardening to keep tomatoes and peppers alive but not necessarily bear fruit.
The second plan was in 2005. I took a 16-week course (now it’s 10 weeks) called Tilling the Soil of Opportunity, a business planning course specifically for agricultural businesses. That was when I first joined UVM Extension, but I took the class as a farmer because I felt that I was ready to take my farming to a new level. I had been playing around with chickens, turkeys and pigs for about six years. I wanted a barn, I wanted recognition. I wanted respect as a farmer. I did the numbers, even taking a whole week off from work to work through spreadsheets.
And the numbers said, “Don’t quit your day job“. Actually they said, “This is a totally foolish thing, you should go back to school and make more money“. So I did. I spent five years working on my Master’s degree part time so that I could make more money. Along the way, I went from a person with textbook experience in Animal Science class to a person who has learned from hundreds of farms doing what I want to do. I went from a person who loved the idea of rotational grazing to a person who now knows enough to teach it. I realized that the old farm-ette location would never be satisfying to realize the true working farm dream. I learned what I do, and do not, want to do. I learned a lot about myself.
Most amazing in this transformation has been what Chris and I want together. For a long time, there was tension between barbecue and farm; “my” thing and “his” thing, and it was almost a competition between us. Maybe it was the transition out of the old house, maybe it’s just been this process of letting go and finding ourselves in an open future…but something between us has evolved. Like any evolutionary process, we are something new. Now the barbecue and the farm are not competitors, but complementary aspects of the success of our new life. We each lead enterprises of the new life, but they support each other like we do.
Here I am, writing a business plan for the next twenty years of our life. It’s real, and it’s us. It’s totally different than the last plan, and I can’t think of a better place to put our love, energy, enthusiasm, creativity, and faith.
Thanks for reading,