Getting Finance Ready: Lending for Small-Scale Producers

March 3, 2022

More Info

Video Transcript

 Well, good afternoon everyone and welcome to the MI Ag Ideas to Grow With conference. I'm excited to be here today with you all on this sunny Friday, at least where I'm at here, in West Michigan. So my name is Mariel Borgman and I am MSU Extension community food systems educator. I serve the southwest part of the state,  and I'm here today with my colleagues from the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems, Jamie Rahrig, and Maria Graziani, and they're going to be presenting to you today about getting finance strategy. So really looking forward to hearing their presentation and just a couple of quick things before we jump into that, I just wanted to remind you that this is a month long event and we have lots of great sessions. So please visit the website to see what other offerings might be of interest to you. And then before we get started, I just want to thank our event sponsors. We had some really generous donors that made the event possible today. And so thank you to Greenstone Farm Credit Services, North Central SARE, Mark Wolbers and the Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Association. We had some folks even from as far as Alaska that had interests in our event and were very generous in donating to us. So thank you for being here, and at this point, I am going to turn it over to Jamie and Maria. Thank you. And how incredible to have a sponsor from Alaska. That's pretty neat. If anybody's on from Alaska, hello from Michigan. All right. Let me share my screen here and we'll go ahead and get started. So thank you Mariel for inviting us to the to the conference and  we are going to show you how to get finance ready. And sorry, can you guys still hear me. I can hear you, Jamie. It broke up for just a second, but I think you're back with us. Oh, okay. Sorry about that. Everybody. We love technology. So again, we're going to talk today about getting finance ready and be really specific to what a small-scale producer might need to know. My name is Jamie Rahrig. I am a specialist and innovation counselor at Michigan State. I'm part of two teams, the MSU Center for regional food systems and the MSU product Center. And also joining me today is Maria Graziani. Hi, everyone I'm from the Center for Regional Food Systems and the Product Center. And I work on food and farm entrepreneurship technical assistance. So I'll start by telling you a little bit about where Maria and I work and where we're coming from today. The MSU Center for Regional Food Systems is a unit at Michigan State that specializes in research, outreach, education all around regionally integrated and sustainable food systems. We work within the state, nationally, and we do some international work as well. And our vision is a thriving economy, equity, and sustainability for Michigan, the country, and the planet. through food systems that are rooted in local regions and centered on food that is healthy, green, fair, and affordable. And as we mentioned, Maria and I are also part of what's called the MSU Product Center Team, which is an innovative innovation center specific to food, agriculture, and natural resource sector businesses. We have a pretty small team. Are team might do market facilitation and market feasibility studies. We host an annual trade show called Making it in Michigan, where small food makers, like they make a sauce, or kale chips, or something else. Coffee - come together and get to meet the buyers from big buyers as well as local stores. We have other work that we do to try to help get people's products onto the shelves from an individual customized consulting to product testing and helping them make sure that their labels are all set up and their food is safe for the market. We're also part of MSU Extension and specifically to the community food systems work team. So you can see here some of the work that all of our team, team members do from farm to food, excuse me, food and farm business viability, farm to institution and public food systems education. Part of what Maria and I do is to try to help food and farm businesses get ready for financing, just like we're talking about today. One of the projects we- I hate to interrupt 1 second, the slides are not moving. Really. Yeah, we're still seeing the first one. Okay. Let's try to start over. It's moving just fine from my end. Looks good on my end. Alright, let's try that again. Thank you. Alright. See Javier now? No. It's a it's a black screen there. Now we see him. Oh, and zooms telling me there's a problem again so... Did it just toss Jamie out? I think we lost Jamie, Maria, do you have the slides pulled up?  Sorry about that, everybody. Do you want me to do slides just in case? Sure, thanks. Not a problem. Usually they get pushed out on snowy days, but it's pretty nice today. I don't know what's going on. Are we seeing the right screen here? Seeing the right screen, if you could move down to the Good Food Funds slide please. Here you go, Okay, super. Thank you. So one of the programs that Maria and I work on is called the Michigan Good Food Fund. It's considered a healthy food financing initiative. So we come together with different lending partners and technical assistance providers like Maria and myself, and try to help businesses get ready for financing and then connect them to the best possible loan option. Sometimes grants, sometimes crowdfunding options that they, that's best for them. You can see here on the screen that there are different lending partners. We can land anywhere from $2500 up to 6 million. Usually the 6 million, the million dollar ones are bigger grocery stores. But we can lend for things like farm equipment, tractors, as well as inventory for somebody making a product or maybe they're bottling and packaging and all the things in between. And our technical assistance partner is the Fair Food Network. So between all of us, we provide customized assistance all the way from the farm to the fork. It's considered a mission-driven program, which means we're looking for businesses that are bringing healthy and affordable food into our communities. We lean towards businesses that are owned by entrepreneurs of color, sourcing local, considering the environment in the work that they're doing. And of course, impacting Michigan's economy by starting new businesses and adding jobs especially in communities in need. Another program that Maria and I were kind of-we nicknamed Food SPICE, we always have to have a food acronym for programs around food. So Food SPICE is Food Systems Partners Investing in Communities and Entrepreneurs and taking lead from the Michigan Good Food Fund in the learnings that we've been doing with that program. We brought a specialized program to the southwest, southwest Michigan area and Upper Peninsula, really to support food and farm businesses, trying to connect them to resources and really strengthen that overall food system within the communities. Okay, next up we've got a couple of polls for you. We want to learn a little bit more about you now that we've told you about us. And hopefully they will work on my Zoom today. So two questions. If you could just respond to the polls once I put it out there. How do you keep track of your own farm's business records? And then on a scale of one to five, how comfortable are you with managing your business financials? Okay, and you should be able to see it. Everybody see that? Can I get a thumbs up? Head nods? Good? Alright. I'm telling you there's no shame in any of these answers, so don't please don't be afraid to answer. We know a lot of farmers who keep their receipts in a box. In fact, last year we hosted a series about getting ready for loans and we joked that we were going to call it from shoebox to QuickBooks or, or something like that. So no shame if that's you. Great. A lot of people are keeping track in the notebook. You can go ahead and share the results. Maria, if you're allowed to here, maybe I'm allowed to. Okay. So the majority of majority folks are keeping track in a notebook, and also in QuickBooks. That's, that's very impressive. To me. It's not always an easy system to use. Great, great work, everybody. And Maria, It's going to tell us a little bit more about programs like WAVE that are listed there that you might not have heard of before. Right? And then scrolling down, looks like people are kind of in the middle. Feeling pretty good about managing their own business financials, that's great! And for those of you who are still not comfortable with that, hopefully by the end of the session today, we will, you'll feel a little bit closer to comfortable. Thanks everyone for participating in that poll. It's nice to see what systems people are using currently to manage their business. And sort of how we can work with producers on an individual level to make sure that they're doing top-notch internal recordkeeping, which is sort of the the beginning goal, the foundation for getting pre-lending ready and having your finances in order for a banking institution. So getting and staying prepared for lending, we sort of have six very specific points. The first one being what I just said, good farm business recordkeeping. Whether you're using a computer based or online program. At a minimum, a good Excel sheet or a printout of what we've come to know as Excel sheets, a print out of a spreadsheet or Michigan State has a farm business record keeping book and that you update that record keeping book weekly or at least you're reconciling your books, you're balancing them, you're reviewing them on a monthly basis. The second would be making sure that you have a bank account for your business set up specifically for the farm income and expenses that even if you are a sole proprietor, you're still utilizing a bank. A separate bank account can still be in your name, but that is specifically for the farm income and the farm expenses. It makes for a much cleaner record keeping system. If you're moving money in and out of a specific bank account for the farm. So, setting up that bank account and then three, keeping relationships with a farm business consultant, someone like Jamie or myself or Mariel, who you can talk through some of your farm, record keeping your production, your sales, your expenses with. Could be someone from farm business management at MSU or a local trusted consultant or a tax accountant, or lender. But that you've got someone to sort of discuss ways that you're managing your recordkeeping. And I'm using the term recordkeeping. It may not just be straightforward financing, but also depreciation value of equipment, risk management tools, crop insurance, all of those aspects of farming that you're keeping track of. And then aside from that farm business consultant, even though it might be an accountant, but that you also have an accountant. Even if you're doing your own taxes, that you have an accountant that you sort of, that advises you potentially on what you on. what your chart of accounts looks like. The way that your record keeping that can give you feedback on good receipt management may look over your form before you submit it. We just had a question about that this week from our farm business recordkeeping course about an accountant being able to just review a potential tax return and make sure that everything is there. The fourth one, or fifth one being an active business strategic plan, we see these two words together, not just business plan, but a business strategic plan. They use that term to mean that your business plan is active, meaning you update it annually if possible. You're adding new business moves, business actions, maybe you're adding another product or another crop, another sales channel, another market. And all of those moves, and the expenses and income around it, are updated in your business plans. I'm sure many people on the call have heard of Ag Plan. We recommend Ag Plan  because it is a no cost service, you can keep going back into the program and changing up your business plan to be active. And we do highly recommend that. Most lending institutions are going to ask for a working business plan. And then finally, marketing, markets, and customers. Maintaining and growing your relationships with your markets. Knowing your customer base, potentially counting customers, counting sales, knowing the number of markets, knowing the sales of markets, knowing how much you spend on marketing are all numbers that lending institutions, financing institution, even government granting bodies are going to want to see. So good farm record keeping. We can share the slides after. That Records for management is actually the farm business records for management document that's available through MSU and we can share that link. I don't know if Jamie or Mariel. I already got it. I already got it. and it's also available for purchase, which I know a lot of farmers do. They go through the MSU Bookstore, and just have one printed copy shipped. Wonderful. I'll make sure that link is near the presentation recording when it gets posted to the conference website as well. Okay. Great. Great. So I just have that there because it's an MSU. Resource because it's something that a lot of producers use, because it's digital. And like Jamie said, it can be a physical sheet as well. So for those of you who are doing notebooks, or maybe when you said notebooks, you mean the records for management or a document like it. A lot of extensions across the country actually have their own versions of sort of that, that paper record keeping. But it's going to be the same across the board, whether you're digitally keeping records or on paper keeping records are using accounting program. You want to make sure to keep your income and your expenses current. Taking a couple of hours a week, one hour a week, a couple hours a month, to make sure that everything is input. Sales for market, online sales, expenses when you purchased something, that they're in there and reported. So the recordkeeping part, the recording part, is step one. And then ensure that you're closing your books annually and start fresh every year. So you know, you can purchase the physical copy every year and have a fresh book for each year of production. And make sure that you are reviewing that book or having someone review the book, your books with you annually and that you're everything's balanced and closed. Part of that closing of books annually is taking inventory of your assets and your liabilities. So reviewing equipment depreciation annually, reviewing your loan balances reviewing savings and investment balances, an actual crop inventory, crop and product inventory, and where you're at at the end of each year, you really start to get into whole farm planning when you really can understand how much inventory you hadn't the beginning of the year, how much inventory you had at the end of last year, and how much inventory, equipment, value, loan balances you have at the end of the current year and then really compare them and see can really start to give you a picture of success, some things that might not be doing too well, changes you might want to make to production, markets you attend, things like that. So scheduling that time to review your sales and expenses. Farmers often do this December, January, February, specifically to see which products are doing well and which ones are not, and where expenses are too high or where they're fine. And then really being able to make management decisions on your records and then your records are of great value to you. And when your records are of great value to you, there are of great value to potential granter or lender. And then plan to grow in your strong sales areas and improve or eliminate your weak areas. This is where MSU Extension can really come in and support you on those decision-making processes. With their expertise, their knowledge of the particular crop, or field, their knowledge of the markets that you're selling into, can really be a counselor  in terms of these decision areas. So if you're seeing weak sales in a particular crop, you can begin to have a conversation with extension around what might be your options for improving those sales ,or changing markets, or changing crop, and making a good solid round decision on this. And often that crop or product change is what leads to potentially a farmer needing a new loan or a new grant. Getting into specialty crop or something value-added or a brand new crop overall and needing to do an enterprise budget to see what the, the cost and the potential sales of that particular crop is. And then of course, reviewing your financial documents and statements as you are getting into considering more financing for your farm business. So if you were going through steps one all the way to six, then you start to have everything in order to really say is lending rate for me? Is this something I really need? And if it is, how much do I need? and what am I going to spend that money on to make sure my sales grow, my farm grows, my finance are strong, the farmer stable, the products are stable? So an example of record keeping, these are actually screenshots from that farm management record keeping book. An Excel spreadsheet can look like this as well in, in a digital form. This is what an online accounting system really looks like. So you're the top is putting in farm expenses. You put the day, you put who the vendor was, if it was the check the check number, the dollar amount. And then what's nice about the farm recordkeeping is that it's got farm related items in there - feeder, car, truck, chemicals, conservation, employees, feed, and it's got the same, little bit different, but the same items that are part of potential farm production in the income side. So this is where you're putting in income. So this one particularly categorizes income by the buyer. You could sort of work with this a bit and categorize an entire market as the buyer. So if you're taking a variety of crop on a particular date to a farmers market, under buyer, you could put the farmer's market and then put your total sales. You wouldn't have to, or you could, you could use multiple lines  and put Farmers market, farmers market, farmers market, farmers market, and then actually have the total sales of each crop or product that you sold at that market. And then you'd really be dividing up per product sales and see on, at any one market, on any one day. This is how much broccoli you, sold or lettuce heads are carrots, and really get a look at which products are selling well or not. That recordkeeping in a computer or web-based program, or for those of you who are starting to look at different, different one than the one you have, Here are some ones that we've been working with. They all have their, their ups and downs, their goods, their bads. There's no perfect system out there. I think a lot of people, in fact, we had some people in the chat say they are already using QuickBooks. Most of QuickBooks right now is online at this point, it's much more expensive in QuickBooks to get a computer-based program because they're becoming obsolete. And you get a more affordable price when you are doing their monthly online cloud-based service. And as someone who's been doing farm based accounting for awhile, the QuickBooks physical copy, computer-based copy is actually a more complicated system. It's a, it's a clearer, simplified system- The QuickBooks Online. We've been really into exploring WAVE accounting. WAVE accounting is a completely free accounting service. It's not geared towards farmers, but it is a really simplified system. It's got payment tiers, but the payment tiers don't get into, they go deeper into the program, so you'd be able to do very basic business accounting, record keeping in the WAVE system at no cost. Pc Mars, of course, is farm driven, it's specifically made for farms. It's got all of the needed categories as a farm producer. And if you are a larger farm and have more complicated recordkeeping, the PC Mars system integrates with the extension MSU Extension TelFarm program. So you can actually get support with the PC Mars system at a cost with the TelFarm program. Then finally, we have Square banking, and Square started out as a cards swiper. I'm sure a lot of you may be familiar with it if you're using a swiper, not even just Square, but you could also be using a PayPal swiper. Other systems helps swipers. And it's a point of sale system, but they do have integrated banking with Square. So if you were really looking to integrate your cash register, your point of sale, your cards swiper, your online menu of items, with your banking, Square is becoming more and more of an option to have all systems together under one surface. We don't promote, um, or, or give preference to any one of those. You know we're just here to provide options and information about them if you are interested. And those are links that you can go to, to, to research those yourself and see which one is good for your business. And then, as you heard me mention earlier, business plan resources, Agplan is at the top there. Other ways of getting that business counseling, certainly through MSU Extension. On the food side of pre-lending, lending, and financial assistance. Specialists like Jamie and I can certainly be Technical Assistance Counselors as it pertains to getting pre lending ready. So can an SBDC or SCORE volunteer with your business. They can help you write a business plan and active business plan and get your financial documents, your proforma, balance sheet, your income statement, your cashflow statement, ready for a lender. And often, Jamie and I work simultaneously with a SCORE mentor and SBDC mentor to make sure all your sides are covered as a business. If you haven't heard of SBDC or SCORE before, SCORE used to stand for retired executives. So it's folks who might be a retired accountant, for example, who help or retired marketing expert, something like that. And then SBDC is the Small Business Development Centers and there's usually county based offices. So there should be somebody near you. Thank you, Jamie. And since we've talked about all of the good recordkeeping, that means you're well on your way to have all of your pre-lending financing documents and or grant proposal documents all in place. This is a basic list that most lenders and granting bodies would want from a farm business. Or if it's a group proposal for a project that they would want to see from the project, a complete an active business plan that includes the information on the purpose of the loan. And that's the financial information and sort of the narrative of how that loan or grant would be used. A minimum one-year startup financials. If you are a startup farm, startup food-based business, those are going to be projected financials, but they've gotta be pretty good projected financials, getting estimates, getting invoices, or proposals from other vendors. Seeing documents that show that like you're starting up your leasing your land, you're owning your land, you're leasing your equipment, you own your equipment, things like that to show that like you've got everything in order to get started. Or if you're a young farm showing your financials from previous years. The personal financial statement more, again if you are a startup or or if you've been in business less than three years, being able to show the strength of your own personal financials that would provide some collateral on the loan. This would be the credit authorization is something that a document like it or something in that realm would be asked of you by the lending institution. And then three years of business tax return. So if you are filing tax returns specifically for the farm, the last one, two, or three years, whatever you have. So if you've been in business three years or more, you'd have three. If you're doing sort of personal taxes with Schedule Fc and Schedule Cs, they would want to see all of that. They would want to see what Schedules you've submitted with your personal tax returns to show that you are farming or you are selling things as a personal seller, individual seller. Easy one-copy of government issued ID. This could be a part of your business plan, but resumes of owners and management. So, as an example, if you're an existing farm, you've been farming for years, but you're endeavoring into a new project- new markets, a new crop, a new sales channel. Maybe you're building and on farm stand, maybe you're getting involved as, you know, as a member owned co-op. They kind of want to see what everybody's background experience is as a part of that. And that could go into a project business plan. And that leads to the next one, a specific project budget with a narrative. So if it's, if it's a loan, this is definitely for a grant but also for a loan. The specific information on what the loan is for. So what is the project budget? What do you need to grow? Why? What are you buying? What are you using it for? The more details, the better. And then finally, a certificate of good standing with the state of Michigan. And that means that you have registered as a business with the state. And the certification shows that you have no outstanding debt or unlawful actions against you from the state. It's a five dollar fee, ten dollar fee to just get online. I believe it's in the Laura system to request that certificate. And then you have your list of everything you need to be pre-lending ready. As a part of all of that, when it came to the good record keeping and you're getting your project budget, it is specifically coming from your accounting records, your recordkeeping. So if you're doing paper record keeping, these might be printouts or you might ask someone to transfer your paper documents to an Excel spreadsheet or a Word document so that they can be printed out or put into a little packet. The first one would be your 12 month cashflow statement. That would kind of look like that that slide that I showed you a few slides ago that comes from the farm recordkeeping booklet. It's showing your inflow and outflow for 12 months. It's showing what came in every month and what went out every month. So it's that big sheet where you've just put your income and your expenses. The second one would be your balance sheet. So that's going to show your assets and liabilities and your owner's equity. So this is where you're doing depreciation on your equipment. You showing what you've paid yourself throughout the year, or what you've put and/or what you've put into your business, what cash you put into your business, and it's showing you all of your assets and all of your liabilities being debts, the debts, the depreciation, any big loans outstanding or investments that are a part of your business. Then finally, your income statement. So this is a snapshot of time and showing your net income, usually in one month or in a quarter or within the year. So showing that net income within one year or month or a set or a quarter, depending on what the grant or what the lending institution would ask you to provide. For some reason that screen... It was doing that this morning, too. It just came out blank? That is very weird. Yeah. This slide is just going through the different types of steps- Here it comes. Slow motion-to work with. Okay? Oh, that's because there's animation. That's why. we forgot about that. There we go. Here we go. Yeah. So getting to those last steps, what can you do to really, what are the final steps you need to take? You've got all those documents or you're getting them in order, what is that going to look like? First of all, to make it all easier, you can work with a technical assistance provider to get all your documents together. We highly recommend that, so reaching out to us or SBDC, or a local SCORE volunteer or in a local organization or non-profit that can help you get all of those documents together. And you should expect, unless you already have all of these documents ready, you've been diligently working on your record keeping. Let's use an example. You've got an online software. You can easily generate from that software a balance sheet and a cashflow statement. All your income and your expenses are accounted for. You've been doing your taxes annually, you can get those printed out or pull them up or send a PDF over. You would expect somewhere like three months to get all that stuff together. Or if you're coming to a lender and it's all together, it might only take a couple of weeks to get your loan processed. But if you don't have any of that ready, and you go to a technical assistance provider or the lending body provides technical assistance to help get you lending ready, you might expect a timeframe of three to eight months to get everything prepared, a loan reviewed, a loan processed, all of that. So be ready for those types of timeframes. What a technical assistance provider like Jamie and I can specifically do is introduce you to lenders. So if you come to us at the beginning and we've been working with you for a couple of weeks or so, couple of months to get all of your pre- lending documents in order get your recordkeeping, you know, top notch, get your documents printed out. Complete an  active business plan. Then we can go to the lender and make the introduction. We can ask if we can get a Zoom meeting together, get it scheduled and we can be on the meeting too, to help advocate for you as an entrepreneur, to say that this, this, this farm, this producer has really gone all their due diligence. They're really ready. They have a great plan. They've got sort of all of their safety nets in place and they're ready to go. So that's one of the benefits, multiple benefits, but one of the multiple benefits to having a technical assistance provider. And then once that meeting is scheduled, the art of preparing your pitch or just some, some bullet points to get ready for the discussion with the lender. Really trying to bring home your successes, your need for growth, and the overall loan project grant asked. You can go into those meetings being confident. So where can you go for help? Us, of course, we're going to say that. MSU, we've got multiple arms that can be supportive to producers. MSU Extension, of course. And then there's also the Product Center if you're getting into value-added production. Food SPICE in the Michigan Good Food Fund as technical assistance providers for Finance and Business Development and a pipeline to lending opportunities. And then of course, your own already known and trusted lender. And as we've mentioned before, SBDC and SCORE. Like I can't reiterate enough too, if you don't have a strong relationship with your lender, how important that is. If something happens like a pandemic or something like that and you're having some struggles, to feel comfortable reaching out to that person, having that relationship where you can admit that you might be in trouble and trying to work on a solution with them is just an awesome way to make sure your credit score, credit score, jeez, it's Friday, right? Credit score remains high and in good shape. And you're able to, to payback on that, on that loan like they expect you to. I am going to put another resource in the chat too, it's called the funding sources for food-related businesses. It's something we published each year, an update, and it includes crowdfunding, accelerators, private equity loans and grant opportunities specific to food and farm businesses. So there'll be some familiar grants out there, like maybe from the USDA, but there might also be some unfamiliar ones to you, like from the Patagonia company. So all kinds of different, different things in there you can check out. And we've put in quite a few links to resources that Maria's been talking about in the chat. If you want to look at that. And yep, there's a mentioned that the USDA value-added Producer Grant is open now. There's also one in Michigan, the value-add and regional food system grant that's open now through March, towards the end of March, the 23rd maybe if you want to check that out. And if you're looking to develop some type of a value-add product on the farm, That's what the MSU product center is for. So you can get on their website and register as a client for a $50 fee and then have what I say, a lifelong membership with your one-on-one counselor. We have a good time, good amount of time for questions, Maria? Yeah. Yeah. Um, let's open it to questions. I'm also going to add our big list of information, my name, and email address. So if anybody wants to reach out to me to ask about anything, I'm either going to be able to answer and I'm going to direct you to the right source to answer that question. Well, thank you so much, Maria and Jamie for that presentation. I learned so much and I'm excited for all the folks involved in today's call to follow up with you and get more info. I have not seen any questions come into the chat yet, so please feel free to put any questions in there. And then you can also unmute your microphone if you would prefer to verbalize your question as well. Since we have a small group Zoom meeting, feel free to do that as well. Always see, Melissa is asking if we can get an email copy of the slides and links. If you would like an e-mail copy, please put your e-mail into the chat so that I can send that to you and I'll just ask Jamie or Maria if you could email me those slides and I will get them out to you all as well. Maria, I realize we did not didn't talk much about the farm business record keeping for the global majority. We do have three groups right now, three cohorts of farmers of color who are participating in a six month long online series all about farm business record keeping, starting with the business plan and your your mission and smart objectives all the way to the end to be ready for financing. And we are hoping to offer the series again in the fall depending on funding available. So if you're interested in checking that out, you can sign up for our communications as Center for regional food systems and I'll put that information in the chat. Yeah. Well, if there's no one else with a question yet, I'll ask a question. I'm wondering what is like one of the common things that you hear from lenders as feedback of what they wish folks would be prepared with? Like what is the thing that, what they are most finding that folks are coming to them with the absence of, lack of, for lack of a better word? I mean, I think what aside from, let's say, the producer comes to us and they've got good financials already so we can see their history, right? But they haven't really solidified like that project budget and narrative. They just know they need more money, but they haven't really made a strong decision. I think lenders would really like, like really strong decision and details around what that money's for. That's where a consultant or a technical assistance provider really comes in. You can bounce ideas around. You can really check the marketplace. You can have someone help you do a, you know, there's the process of whole farm planning where you might do that process of, is this a good decision or not? Or in the finance world, a break even analysis on, okay, well, how much, if I move into a new crop and this is what I think I want the loan for, how much am I going to have to sell eventually to have this loan break-even and everything that I purchased to make this happen break-even? And whether your food or a farm business, knowing that information before you meet a lender is really going to strengthen your ability to get that loan. Another thing I learned from the lenders who helped us with this loan preparation series last year was the marketing section of your business plan. That people do not, the farmers do not put enough attention into that section. So the business plan is really to sell yourself and to sell your business to that lender. They're going to want to see why they should invest in your farm, why you're a good risk to take? And for example, you know, whatever, whatever products that you're growing. Why do you think, and why does the market show that people are going to purchase that, whether it's, you're selling direct to the consumer or you're trying to sell to a large grocery retail. So that section of the business plan is often overlooked. You can look at the national data all the way down to your local data, listing who your competitors are, who else might that grocery buy from, and why you are the better choice for them to, to be working with. So that was, that was interesting to me. I always thought it would be just exactly what reach a second. But the lenders actually said marketing section. I see there's a question about make your farm from family sustainability to small income. And are there lenders who work on that scale? There definitely are. There, there are lenders. In fact, we've been communicating more even with the main lender, Greenstone Farm Credit. They have a new program called cultivate growth. It looks like it's marketed to like young farmers, but it's new and beginning meaning you only have to qualify under one criteria. You're new and you're just beginning, or you're under the age of 35 as a young farmers, you don't have to be all three. You could really just be starting out, meaning you're going from sustainability to actually making this a full-fledged business. And a program like cultivate growth might be a really good option as a, as a loan for your farm. And then we do have small food lenders CDFIs, community development financing institutions that will fund, they wouldn't specifically fund real estate, but they would fund business development, any type of business development. So, you know, if the loan is specifically for equipment, working capital, getting into new markets. And they do small, smaller scale loans that are really for, for startups in beginning businesses, fifty thousand dollars or less. You know, not, not the lowest interest rate you could possibly find. But if you feel like a regular institutional bank is not the option you want to go, there  are great options for non traditional lending. Decent interest rate. Definitely have more flexible terms in terms of credit history and collateral. So those are options for all sorts of new and beginning businesses. It could be something like you need, you need financing to add a wash pack section to your farm, you need a tractor, you need money to get started, whether it's to purchase seedlings or or whatever it is. There are options. There, there are, I would say not as many lenders willing to lend to farmers as there are a different type of food business, but they are out there and Maria and I can definitely help you connect with them. There were a couple other questions too, unless I think they got answered inside the chat. I think some of them did. We do have one more that just came in? Do you have any advice for someone with limited farming experience, who is switching career paths, on how to successfully apply for loans. So I think there's some factors in there to consider. Even though they're asking for like experienced resume. I mean, if you're endeavoring to start a farm business and you already have the land. Let's say you're going back to inherited family land, or you have found acreage and purchased it and you really want to make a business out of it. I think, you know, your limited farming experiences is not going to be as big a factor if you're putting all of that projected work and those projected needs into your business plan and into your project summary, budget and narrative. And you have potentially decent personal financials. Maybe you have some friends and family providing some equity in the business. You know, there's other factors that can be in there to make you a strong candidate for a startup farm business. It's not going to be solely based on you having zero farming experience or not. I certainly have engaged with and counseled farmers who are brand new to farming and had acreage and were just getting started. And it could also help to volunteer or in turn, on another farm and try to get that experience. And then when you do go to write your business plan, you can say that you have that experience. There's another question around grants available to people with disabilities. I can say that I am working with someone right now who is accessing services from Michigan rehabilitation services. And they have contributed consultants, given her consultants to work with that they are paying for. So she's not actually receiving cash, but she's getting free services. So somebody to help her with her business financials and helps her with her business plan. There are, so there are resources out there, so they go by MRS. If you haven't heard of the Michigan Rehabilitation Services. There's also the Disability Network and if you're in Michigan and they have services too and then of course, you would qualify for the grants. A person with a disability would qualify for the same grants that are that are out there for anyone. Again, that resource for food and farm related businesses would be a good place to look. Yes. And then Mariel put the link in for Michigan agribility. So that is specific program for Michiganders with disabilities to get into agriculture. Yeah, that's a neat program. They offer all kinds of great assistance. Great questions. Yeah, absolutely. Okay. Anybody else? And you can unmute and talk to us. I know the chat is easier. I'm also going to put the evaluation in the chat as we are wrapping up so that you have an easy access to fill that out. We still have eight minutes for questions, so feel free to keep them coming. I can call and see if Steve was on the Zoom too. This is his specialty. He used to work for Greenstone, so he knows all in and outs of farm business record keeping and financials. If there's anything, Steve, you think that we blatantly missed, feel free to, to add to the conversation. People, people might be listening and eating lunch at the same time too. I know I'm thinking about lunch. And Shannon, if you have more questions, just just e-mail Maria or me. That's all good. If you think that your, anybody on the call, if you're ready for, to look at financing options or you're ready to get started working on getting loan ready, You can go onto that Michigan Good Food Fund website and there's an inquiry form you can fill out and then one of us will contact you. Yeah, absolutely. One of the things I want to point out and Steve, your comment made me think of it is that remember that a technical assistance provider, even a consultant, counselor, is really a guide or a facilitator in the process of getting, lending ready and getting a loan. Unless you're hiring a consultant to specifically do the work for you. Technical assistance providers are there to help you get the work done. So you should be prepare that like in counseling hours and technical assistance hours, we're going to throw work back to you. We're going to give you the big list. We're going to review things for you. We're going to set deadlines and then we'd expect you to get back with us with those answers with the, with the income information, with a completed form, whatever it is. It's still as a business owner, your work to complete. We had another question come in-for a new farmers starting up, how early in a startup do you suggest working with a consultant? As early as possible. Maybe if you're just thinking about it, you should already have got that consult. And not just the full-fledged consultant. I mean, like a technical assistance provider. Like I I wouldn't expect everybody to be able to or have the resources to pay a consultant. It could be a combination of free consultation in paid consultation, whatever's in the books for you. But I would start asking around now and seeing where you can get assistance. And of course, MSU Extension and CRFS and the Product Center all have free resources online at their website links. So you can find publications, you can find videos that are, that are all no cost to you to start to explore a particular crop production. methods of production, methods of record keeping and budgeting, before you have to get into like bigger thing. So if you're just starting to explore and there, there's so many resources out there. And there are resources across the country. If you can't find what you're looking for at MSU, another Agricultural University Extension may have that resource, may have more enterprise budgets, may have more information on a particular crop. So there's lots of no cost resources available. And I see there's a brand new publication I hadn't seen yet. I put the link in the chat to some of the MSU Extension farm management resources. The new one is called: new farm management experience resource guide. That was just released in February. This publication is intended to assist beginning farmers in better understanding and demonstrating management experience. So  that one might be just the perfect place for you to start and start thinking about the firm that you want to start up. And I also posted the link for our beginning farmer website for MSU Extension, and  we also send out a monthly newsletter if you're a beginner. Sounds like we have several on the call here today, and that will get you the latest articles and publications right to your inbox. Yep. And webinars and workshops and things like that. MSU Extension is always an awesome place to start. And people to know. It can definitely connect you to the right resources. And really, really appreciate both Maria and Jamie for taking the time today to speak with all of us.