Whether you are starting a new farm business, expanding your existing farm, or adding a new agricultural enterprise, business planning can be one of the most important and useful exercises in determining your success.

It can help you formulate and clarify what the new venture will look like and if it can be economically feasible.

A farm business plan serves as useful tool for obtaining loans, grants, or other sources of funds. It can help you communicate your business ideas to family, lenders, business partners, and employees.

A plan can serve as a guide to help you identify challenges and opportunities that apply.

A risk management plan incorporated into your business plan will enable you to manage and capitalize on anticipated business risks. It may also be a useful tool in the succession or transfer or adding family members to the business.

A farm business plan can take many different forms. Most plans have an executive type summary that contains a description of the business, mission and goals.

It may contain information on business history, location, resource inventory, and ownership structure.

An operation or production plan describing products and/or services offered is often included. Marketing and pro forma financial plans are important components as you plan the future of your business.

There are many tools available for farm business planning. You can find books, computer software and numerous web resources searching the web. Many are from universities and Extension programs.

AgPlan from the Center for Farm Financial Management at the University of Minnesota, is a free web-based program designed specifically for farms and agricultural businesses. It provides guidance in writing your business plan in the form of tips, resources and samples.

It also offers you the option to allow advisors to comment and/or edit the plan, and you are able to save your planning work online. AgPlan is available at: http://agplan.umn.edu/.

Having your plan in writing will help you focus your energy and resources. It should not be a static document that sits on the shelf. It needs to be used and updated on a regular basis.