For Immediate Release - November 22, 2011

Agricultural Officials to Host Business Planning Courses for Massachusetts Farmers

BOSTON – November 22, 2011 – Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) officials today announced a new round of courses to help farmers and other agriculture-based companies hone their business skills and take a closer look at their existing and potential operations. 

DAR is in its 15th year of offering the course “Tilling the Soil of Opportunity” (TTS), which is aimed at farms and agriculture-based businesses with at least two years of operating history, and was developed by NxLevel, a non-profit organization that specializes in designing entrepreneurial courses. The course features 10 evening group meetings, extensive one-on-one business plan writing support, individual farm site visits and the opportunity for post-course technical assistance. 

“Like any other business, farming requires planning, financial acumen, marketing skills and realistic long-term goals,” said DAR Commissioner Scott J. Soares. “We look at our business training courses as an excellent means to share domain expertise specific to the agricultural sector.”

The course draws on extensive peer experience among course participants, experienced instructor knowledge and guest speakers with expertise in farm finance, marketing, risk management and other topics that emerge in each class. This year’s course will also focus on social network media as an effective marketing tool.

TTS is certified by the U.S. Farm Services Agency as “Borrower Training” for current or prospective U.S. Department of Agriculture loan candidates, and the comprehensive business plans completed by most participants have a track record of improving eligibility for internal or external financing and government grant and loan programs, and for facilitating farm transfer discussions.

The TTS course is offered in both Amherst and Marlborough, meeting one night per week for 10 consecutive weeks beginning in early January 2012.

If you operate a farm/food based enterprise in Massachusetts and would like more details or an application form, go to http://www.mass.gov/agr/programs/abtp/index.htm or contact Rick Chandler at 413-548-1905.

DAR’s mission is to ensure the long-term viability of agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions – Agricultural Conservation & Technical Assistance, Agricultural Markets, Animal Health, and Crop and Pest Services – DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the rich diversity of the Commonwealth’s agricultural community to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture’s role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit DAR’s website at www.mass.gov/agr, and/or follow at http://twitter.com/MDARCommish

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