Over the past three years, California FarmLink has been working with farmers, ranchers and now fishers, to address core questions: How can you strengthen your business? What can you do to make your business more resilient? What skills and practices can you improve to enable all of that to happen?
To deliver solutions, we created The Resilerator, an educational course that’s like a business accelerator, but with emphasis on long-term resilience and sustainable profits and practices rather than an accelerated sprint towards short-term profits. The process begins with each participant completing our Business Resilience Self-assessment. In twice-weekly Zoom meetings over ten weeks participants learn about business structures, labor practices, land tenure, accounting, taxation, credit, insurance, and regulatory compliance. Farmers who have graduated from the program often serve as co-teachers, and we aim for everyone to complete the course feeling resilerated! The course is provided in Spanish as El Resilerador, starting with farmers in the Monterey Bay region, where we have launched Programa LaResiliencia y la Prosperidad. Both courses are rooted in learning from farmers and their individual goals.
People entering the courses need to have at least a two-year track record for their business and several farmers with more experience are finding great value in it. Graduates are known as resilerators and are eligible for one-on-one expert consultations, loan discounts and small-group short courses focused on more advanced topics.
One resilerator’s story: Monkeyflower Ranch and Garden Variety Cheese
The 2021 course included farmers from Siskiyou to Los Angeles counties, including Rebecca King of Monterey County. Monkeyflower Ranch is home to Rebecca’s 100-head sheep herd and dairy, where her team of six employees create the award-winning Garden Variety Cheese. In 2007, Reggie Knox, as regional coordinator, started working with Rebecca on land tenure and about three years later she received FarmLink’s first loan, helping to fund the dairy equipment.
After operating her business for more than a decade, and with prior experience in bookkeeping, Rebecca enjoyed becoming resilerated. “I had mostly been self-taught, learning all of the business things over the years, and I found, ‘Oh, I need to do that’ or ‘Oh, there’s that form I am supposed to be doing,’” she said. “It was really valuable for me on many levels. It was great interacting with the other farmers and then having farmer co-teachers because of little tips I picked up from people. All the other people brought in, with different areas of expertise, were super helpful.”
Helping to see the bigger, long-term picture
The Resilerator’s focus on sustainability underpins a fundamental goal: building a balance sheet and ultimately creating wealth. Rooted in our mission to invest in the prosperity of farmers and ranchers, the Resilerator course focuses on the goal of building a balance sheet, and ultimately creating business sustainability and wealth.
“You need to have more of a managerial perspective and look at things from that bigger picture to really see where your business is going. And I think that’s really hard for farmers, being a business owner and a farmer, because you’re spending all your time out in your field or with your animals or at the farmer’s market, and you rarely get the chance to sit back and look at your chart of accounts,” Rebecca explained.
“You’re more worried about, ‘Okay, next week I have that bill due and I have this delivery.’ It’s one day at a time and it’s really important to be doing those bigger picture things because you might find yourself out of business if you don’t.”
Rebecca also shared some of the pressures she has faced: “There’s definitely been times over the years where I’ve thought, ‘This is really hard and I don’t know if it’s something I could walk away from either.’ I think the Resilerator has changed my perspective in that, okay, it’s worth spending money to work with someone, maybe for the short term, to look at my whole setup. If it saves you hours of your time, it definitely is worth it.”
What is it like to feel resilerated and what are the benefits?
We’ve defined resilerated as the exhilaration of naming threats and obstacles while wielding the tools of resilience: from business structures to the health of the business. Rebecca reflected, “There definitely were a number of the classes where, afterwards I was inspired, ‘Oh yeah, okay. That’s something I should do’ and ‘Here are changes I need to make,’ and it was exhilarating.”
When people complete the course with goals established for their business, FarmLink offers one-on-one assistance to help resilerators continue their journeys. We offer follow-up courses like bookkeeping clinics, determining cost of production, shaping the tax treatment of your business, and accounting for value-added production. We also provide a $500 discount on loan fees when getting a loan with FarmLink, and we’re planning additional incentives.