Advice needed re first class project

Now that my children are 18 and 17 respectively I decided its time to finish college. I’ve been accepted to Mount St. Mary’s College here in Los Angeles. They have a weekend college program specifically designed for working people. For my first semester back I’m taking some interesting courses: Old Testament, Presidents and Personality and a Small Business Management class. In the Small Business Management class I already have an assignment. I have to research 2 small business and write a 1 to 2 page paper about them. Because I want to eventually run a small farm I have decided that one of the business will be a small farm. I went to a local farmers market and got a few names and numbers. Today I put together some questions to ask the farmers in my interview. I am posting them here for your wonderful advice :slight_smile: Do the questions need work? Do you have any ideas for more questions or better ones? Its just a short paper so I don’t want to do a very long interview. Plus I know farmers are busy :slight_smile: Anyway, without further ado:

  1. What made you go into the farming business?
  2. What experience did you have prior to start up that helped you?
  3. What are the most important things you have learned in the first few years of business?
  4. How do you set yourself apart from your competition?
  5. What marketing strategies have been most helpful to your business?
  6. Has the economy affected your business at this time?
  7. If yes, what changes have you made to your business to accommodate the current economic climate?
  8. Do you expect the economy to affect your business in the near future?
  9. If yes, what preparations have you made for possible future effects of the economy?
  10. What advice would you have for a person who wants to operate a small farm?

This might sound like a strange question, but is farming realy a ‘small business’. I would have thought that the selling of produce, be it grain, milk or livestock was a small business but that the farming and management of a small holding itself was not.

Well - there are many small farms here and to sell their product they need a business license. I know some people who just have acreage and grow some stuff on it and have a few sheep, etc, but there is also the “business of farming” and most farmers sell their product. Probably holding the property isn’t a business, but the USDA considers farming a business and regularly releases information on the “business of farming”. My family, who owns a small farm in Wisconsin are running a business or they wouldn’t be farming in the first place. Its just too much work for them to just make food for the family - gotta sell something to make that mortgage, feed the livestock, etc.

ETA- Also, to start up a small farm you need a business plan just like any other business. Here’s a link from the USDA about starting a farm:

First off, congrats on going back to college!

I think you’ve pretty much got what ya need, question wise, I can’t think of anything to add.

There’s also a small farm near me, and, they also sell their products there, at the farm. I’d assume they have the same responsibilities and requirements as any other small business.

Sorry if my last post sounded a bit negative, i was in a bad mood when i wrote it. I think it is great you are going back to college (my dad did the same last year and i am so proud of him!).

I think the questions are good. I would possibly change ‘economy’ to ‘current economic climate’ as it is a bit more sepcific and i think is more what you are leaning toward.

You might consider asking what the greatest challenge of their business is and what the greatest joy of their business is (those aren’t necessarily phrased as nicely as they could be). It’s not necessarily a business-question, but information like that can be helpful in deciding whether that is a business you’d want to be in.

You might want to ask them what, if any, effect agra-business has on them, especially when it comes to being able to hire workers.

I read an article a while back stating that since small farms can’t afford to pay workers what the large ones do, they often go without.

Thanks for all your advice. I got my first paper done on Paradise Farm Organics in Moscow, ID. Mary Jane Butters is the owner of Paradise Farm and she has a lot of things going on there, including a non profit farm school to teach the farming business and organic growing. She also has a magazine called MaryJane’s Farm and a line of organic back packing food that you can buy online at her store or at REI and Amazon - that line is also under the brand name MaryJane’s Farm. She’s a pretty cool lady.