How advisors add value to your farm management plan

  • 4 min read

Experts in various fields can help farmers better understand the nuances of farm management. Consulting with one or more farm advisors in aspects ranging from farm transition to animal care gives farmers focused advice from specialists.

But the array of farm advisors is wide-ranging, and knowing who’s needed for farm management can be a challenge. And while gathering for in-person visits at the farm may have once been common, current practices now call for advisory sessions by phone, video call or physically distanced on-farm visits. Regardless, getting advice from an expert is still valuable. Here’s a look at some of the experts available in the field.

Accountant

Beyond doing your tax return, accountants can work with farmers as business advisors.

“Your accountant should be able to help you understand the financial impact of larger decisions by running cash flow projections, and answer/ask key questions,” says Maggie Van Camp, BDO Canada’s national agricultural practice development leader.

Lenders

Strong relationships with lenders are important, and even more so during challenging times, says Manitoba Agriculture farm management specialist Sharon Ardron.

“It’s easier to find solutions to challenges when there’s adequate time to evaluate all options,” Ardron points out.

But strong relationships take time to cultivate, so be proactive: keep in touch with your lenders to help strengthen the working relationship, Ardron says.

Financial planner/farm management consultants

Having a consultant or financial planner as part of the management team can act as the quarterback for the team.

These experts specialize in intensive debt management and strategic business planning, says Denise Filipchuck, consultant associate with Backswath Management.

“Having a consultant or financial planner as part of the management team on an ongoing basis can act as the quarterback for the team and keep all the wheels moving and in the same direction,” Filipchuck says.

Market strategist

On top of working with farm managers to create and follow through with marketing plans, market strategists can also provide valuable training or information for those who seek a more proactive approach to marketing, says Filipchuck.

Peer advisory groups

Some farmers work with peer advisory groups to share knowledge, experiences and engage in joint strategizing and problem-solving, says Heather Watson, executive director of Farm Management Canada.

"While these farm management groups have been around for a long time in Quebec, and predominantly in the dairy sector, they’re becoming more and more popular in other regions for other commodities, and even cross-commodities, where business management practices transcend commodity specifics," Watson says.

Lawyer

These professionals are often used to draft legal documents and agreements or documents for litigation purposes, explains Filipchuck.

“[They] have a wealth of knowledge that can assist farm managers in preparation and strategic planning prior to drafting final documents,” says Filipchuck.

Mathieu Lipari, program manager with Farm Management Canada, adds that in the ag context, lawyers will mainly get involved in estate law, transitioning, farm purchases or sales, divorce and important changes in an operation’s business structure.

Transition advisors

An anticipated 37% of the agricultural workforce is expected to retire in the next decade.

Van Camp, a farmer who’s acted as an executor, says transition planning is about more than lowering tax exposure. It should also create business and estate solutions that work for your family and your farm. 

Coaches

Farm family business coaches help families discover expectations and communicate more clearly. 

“Coaches can help with getting unstuck, conflict resolution and family meeting facilitation,” says Elaine Froese, farm family transition coach and farmer.

Human resources

Managing your HR is an important part of your success, says Hali Van Vliet, senior manager HR Advisory at BDO Canada.

Critical HR processes to help your farm business succeed include offering training and development, managing employee performance, maintaining competitive compensation, and following health and safety guidelines, VanVliet says.

Agrologist/agronomist

Agrology applies science to agriculture, agri-food, the environment and the economy, Agrologists Agronomes Canada explains.

Agronomists are sometimes used for business advice, especially in Quebec, so they fulfil multiple advisory roles,” adds Mathieu Lipari of Farm Management Canada.

Vets

Veterinary services can play critical roles in biosecurity, animal health, animal welfare, food safety and rural business success, Manitoba Agriculture explains.

Find an expert

For producers seeking to hire their first advisor — or to add to the team they have in place — Canadian Association of Farm Advisors offers a comprehensive list of potential candidates. 

Bottom line

Farm advisors are a valuable resource to bring to farm management for expert advice on a variety of issues. Be proactive and seek out advisors when there is adequate time at the farm, recognize their expertise and work together towards achieving the farm’s goals. Organizations such as the Canadian Association of Farm Advisors are a valuable resource to identify and find the farm experts available across the country. 

Article by: Richard Kamchen