Extension institute targets natural resource entrepreneurs

Perhaps you’ve dreamed of raising Asian vegetables for a growing ethnic market, adding summer income to your Christmas tree farm with a pick-your-own cut-flower operation, or even growing a commercial crop of shitake mushrooms in your woodlot. Maybe you’ve considered boarding horses on that rural property you just bought, or diversifying your four-generation dairy operation to develop income opportunities that will enable your children to keeping farming after you retire.

People who earn all or part of their living from agricultural, horticultural or forest-based enterprises have unique needs for information and support. To meet those needs, an interdisciplinary team of UNH Cooperative Extension staff has teamed with outside experts to offer a 13-week Natural Resource Business Institute (NRBI) this spring.

The course — designed to give individuals and families who want to start or expand a natural resource-based business the information and preparation they need to be successful — will run from 6 to 9:15 p.m. Tuesdays, March 20 through June 12, at the New Hampshire Farm Service Agency in the Ralph Pill Marketplace Building at 22 Bridge St. in Concord.

“New Hampshire has been the fastest-growing state in New England for the last four decades,” says Cooperative Extension agricultural business management specialist Mike Sciabarrasi. “One major consequence of this growth is that the state has been losing about 25,000 acres of forest and farmland every two years to development, an area the size of the average New Hampshire town. Undeveloped open lands are essential to human health and our quality of life in the Granite State. They provide ecosystem services, such as clean water and air, groundwater recharge and wildlife habitat. They provide the scenic backdrop that draws people here to live and visit,” he said.

According to Sciabarrasi, sustainably profitable farms and forestry enterprises – which he calls “working landscapes” are “essential for preserving these natural resources for future generations.”

Outreach education, he said, “is the best way to strengthen the economic viability of the state’s natural resource businesses.”

Business advice

NRBI participants will learn to develop an operating plan for a farming or forestry business as they learn about biological systems and soils, taking natural resource inventories, product and service marketing, enterprise profitability and legal matters particular to natural resource businesses.

They’ll also explore the human dynamics of running a family business (defining roles and responsibilities, handling conflict, managing time and hiring outside labor, for example). They’ll also learn how government agencies and financial institutions work with farm and forestry ventures.

“From decades of advising people who make their living from the land, Cooperative Extension educators understand the importance of helping natural resources entrepreneurs evaluate their business ideas carefully and learn to identify both opportunities and potential pitfalls,” says Sciabarrasi. “Participants will end up with an operating plan and a realistic expectation of success, potentially saving themselves a lot of money, time and anguish by discovering fatal flaws in their original ideas.”

Target audiences include individuals and families starting or planning a natural-resource business, current land-based business owners considering changes or expansions to their operations, families looking for ways to pass viable operations on to the next generation, high school and college students exploring career options and landowners looking to earn retirement income from their land.

The course, which costs $175 per person, meets all USDA Farm Service Agency borrower certification requirements. Participants also can earn 4.0 continuing education credits through the UNH Professional Development and Training program.

For more information or to register, contact Sciabarrasi at 862-3234 or mike.sciabarrasi@unh.edu.

This article was provided by the by UNH Cooperative Extension, the primary public outreach arm of the University of New Hampshire.

Categories: News