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Empowering young farmers in Manitoba

Barry and Tracy Chappell and Family.

Today's young farmers are the business leaders that will develop Manitoba's agricultural future. Strengthening the next generation of farmers directly benefits the profitability and sustainability of agriculture in the province.

Gary Smart, business development specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (MAFRD), says the biggest challenge facing young farmers today is affordability as the costs of machinery and land are rising. The professional consulting and skill development available through Growing Forward 2's Growing Competitiveness - Next Generation program makes the transition to farm ownership easier.

Strengthening farmers through transition

An important part of maintaining a strong agricultural sector is ensuring farmers between the ages of 18 and 39 are receiving the knowledge and tools they need to succeed and grow their businesses. To help young farmers develop their skills, there is funding available for services that enhance business management, including assessment, analysis, financial planning, risk management, marketing and leadership.

Chris MacMillan is one farmer who has recently taken advantage of the funding available. Farming in Marquette, Manitoba he's taking over his parents' dairy operation.

"We used the funding to help with the transition of shares and shareholder loans," he says. "The accountants let us know about the program and it saved me personally quite a bit of money and really helped through the process."

Education key to success

The funding available for educational planning is also essential for young farmers.

"There are funds available for producers to get training that maybe they thought they couldn't afford," says Smart. "Including going to a conference or taking an ag course in an area they'd like more knowledge or expertise."

He says running a farm has become more complicated than it was in the past with endless information and opportunities available through the Internet.

Planning for the future

Smart says that when young farmers apply through the program they are paired with an advisor and through the process look critically at their plans for the future.

"When they apply they meet with us and we go over a financial assessment and do a backgrounder to see where they're at and where they want to be," says Smart. "For example, if they're looking into succession planning we'll help them identify the things they need to think about including the legal and financial implications of taking over the farm business."

Program has lasting impact

Smart has seen the impact of similar programs available under Growing Forward.

"I've been involved with families that have been in turmoil and didn't know which direction to take," he says "They were able to meet with a professional consultant to find the right path for their farm. Now they have a plan and they're starting to implement it."

Barry and Tracy Chappell are one of the farm families who received funding from Growing Forward approximately five years ago while they were incorporating their grain farm and crop input business.

"Incorporating is the best thing that ever happened to our organization. Having some funding to help us offset our costs was a huge benefit," says Barry Chappell. He explained the advice they received from MAFRD business development specialists throughout the process was also valuable.

"It wasn't a very difficult process and I don't know if that many people are aware of it," says Barry in regards to applying for the funding.

He explained that families can often find future generational planning difficult, and sometimes can make mistakes.

"Many people have misconceptions around things like incorporating," says Tracy Chappell. "They think you need to be very big, but that's not true. For succession planning, incorporating is a really important process to consider."

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