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Plan for Success

Meet Rosalie Wilson.  Since 2004 she's assisted over 100 farmers with business and strategic plans, feasibility studies, and market research and development, and grant writing.
Meet Rosalie Wilson. Since 2004 she’s assisted over 100 farmers with business and strategic plans, feasibility studies, and market research and development, and grant writing.

Readers, you will be the first to point out, “Rose, this is so basic!”  It may be basic but this is precisely why we should talk about it.  Sometimes the fundamentals are easy to forget.

Goal setting and planning are a journey, and they are tools.  If you use them effectively, they can help you navigate the hustle and bustle of everyday life while keeping an eye on your end goal; create a path to get there that is rewarding and meaningful to you; pull you out when you get stuck in a rut, feel trapped, or find yourself going through the motions; and remind you of what you are doing, and why you are doing it.

Take away point #1 Having goals and a plan help you remain focused. 


I am working with a vegetable farmer.  The farmer has been farming his whole life.  He is well-known and well regarded in the agricultural community.  The past four years, however, he admitted he hasn’t been making any money.  He is continuing to do the same motions day in and day out, but the income just isn’t there anymore.  He is financially and emotionally at a breaking point.  Taking a minute to breathe, step back, and assess ways to improve his situation can help him refocus, remember why he started farming in the first place, what he hopes to get out of it, and create some concrete steps to get back on track.  Then he can dig back into all those day to day things that are calling him.

Similarly, I was working with a certified organic dairy farmer who felt she had to expand her herd in order to make ends meet.  When we actually did the numbers, we found out that with a few tweaks to her operation, she could make the same net income at 25 cows as she was projecting at 40 cows.  For the same amount of money, quality of life would be much better at the smaller herd size.

Planning can take a large goal and break it down into bite size pieces.  Sometimes having one large goal can be daunting and overwhelming.  We feel as though we’ll never get there.  Breaking it down into bite size chunks is a way to create a road map for how to achieve the larger goal.  It also provides you with milestones to celebrate your accomplishments along the way.  Being able to break something big down into bite size chunks enables you to feel a sense of progress that otherwise might go unseen, and progress provides positive reinforcement and encouragement, which will make it more likely that you’ll stick with it and keep working towards your larger goal.

Kingdom Creamery of Vermont, hard at work business planning, and having fun while doing it!
Kingdom Creamery of Vermont, hard at work business planning, and having fun while doing it!

Take away point #2 Planning breaks large goals down into bite size chunks which provides a step-by-step how to and fosters motivation to keep going.


I was helping a dairy farm explore starting a value added enterprise.  The entire concept of starting a whole new business seemed daunting, all they knew was, “we need to generate more money for our milk.”  By taking the concept of “starting a value added enterprise” and breaking it down into steps- research this, call that person, get a quote for this, etc, then regrouping, seeing what they were finding, digesting the information and setting new to-do’s we were able to break down a big, nebulous concept into manageable chunks that felt do-able.  To tell someone it may take a few years to get from point A to their dream might seem hopeless, but to break it down into chunks makes that time period spent planning fly by, and before you know it you’re ready to implement.  In this case, we started the business planning in 2009, and they broke ground in 2011, after having dotted all their I’s, and crossed all their t’s and made as best a plan as possible that could achieve positive results and minimize risk.

Planning enables you to assess your strengths and weaknesses, personal interests, quality of life and financial goals and design a plan for the business that best aligns with each of these.  Otherwise you could find yourself highly successful doing something you hate.  Writing your business plan allows you to be in charge of designing your future, make your future what you want it to be.

Take away point #3 Look at planning as a gift.  Self-employed people are the only people who have the opportunity to be fully in charge of designing their own futures, use this gift!


One of the first farms I worked with wanted to use their business planning as a tool to help the farmer carve out more family time.  He was working all the time and wasn’t getting a chance to see his daughters grow up.  So we used the planning process to identify some opportunities to achieve this.  We discovered that the farmer spent a significant amount of time haying more than he needed in order to generate supplemental hay sales.  We wondered if it might be possible to focus on improving milk production through a nutrient plan to increase hay quality that could in turn increase milk income which could then offset loss of hay sales and free him up from having to hay so much.

Planning allows you to evaluate whether your idea is feasible on paper before spending time and money on implementation.  If it looks favorable on paper, then it provides you with the opportunity to analyze all your options and select the path that will be most likely to achieve your goals as efficiently and effectively as possible. 

Take away point #4  Planning saves you heart ache, time and money.


Several farms I have worked with have found it just as valuable to go through the planning process and determine they do not want to proceed.  It is much better to find out that you don’t want to go through with something or discover that it won’t be feasible while in the planning stages rather than once you have begun investing in it.  One farm, for example, wanted to transition from dairy into beef cattle.  Over the course of doing the research for the business plan, the couple realized they really like dairying, they enjoyed their lifestyle, and they didn’t want to embark on a commercial-scale beef operation.  Another farm discovered that while their plan for a small scale milk bottling facility looked financially viable on paper, the land they were located on would not pass NRCS for a septic system, and the whole idea was dead in the water.

While things may “never go according to plan,” at least having a plan enables you to take the time to make an educated, calculated decision on moving forward.   You have been able to identify a realistic path for how you could achieve your dreams.  It has provided you with the time to poke holes in all the weaknesses you can see, and find solutions to all the hurdles that you are aware of that could stand in your way.  If you still come out on top after having created your plan, you can sleep better at night knowing that, to the best of your abilities you have minimized risk of failure and maximized likelihood of success.

Take away point #5  Planning allows for probable versus possible destiny.

In sum

  • Set goals based on what you want out of life both personally and professionally
  • Be open to change, adjust your goals and plan as needed to address curve balls thrown at you or changes to personal and professional interests over time.
  • Once you develop a goal, have the courage to pursue it.
  • Use planning to create a road map that guides you towards your dreams.
  • Use your plan as a way to evaluate options in the face of tough decisions along your path.
  • Celebrate your successes along the way, every step forward brings you one step closer to your ultimate goal.
  • Planning and goal setting allow you to be in the driver’s seat of your destiny.

Editors Note:  You can learn more about Rosalie and her services at her website.


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Rosalie Wilson
Rosalie Wilson
Rose founded her consulting services to specialize in business planning and business development for the farm and food sector. Since 2004 Rose has worked on business plans, strategic plans, feasibility studies, market research, market development, and marketing plans, and provided grant writing services for over 157 farms, and related businesses and organizations. Rose’s mission is to make a difference on a local level: helping build a strong, sustainable, local economy; encouraging a sense of community; and minimizing our collective impact on the environment. Rose’s passion is working with agricultural producers, small businesses, and non-profits and seeing them succeed. Rose is a graduate of Dartmouth with experience in sales for Geographic Data Technology and as the Business Development Manager for Harpoon Brewery. She serves on several boards and committees including the NOFA Loan Committee and the Council of Trustees for Stanstead College. She lives with her husband, Mike and their Ragdoll cats in Norwich, Vermont.

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