Farms: The Freshest Small Business Around

My favorite season in Tahoe has arrived – farmers’ market season! While we are lucky to have a source of farm fresh produce all winter long through the amazing Tahoe Food Hub, there is something really special about walking the stalls of farmer’s markets.

When I visit with farmers and growers at the markets, it’s an opportunity to learn more about the food they grow, where they grow it, and the practices they use. I also love hearing the stories of each farm – how they got started, if it’s fourth generation or a startup, what their favorite produce is, how many acres their farm is – I can be totally lost in the combination of COMM Farmer Market ValleyView2hearing their stories and seeing the beautiful fruits of their labor. Sometimes, I become so engrossed by the vegetables, flowers, and bread in front of me that I forget that a small farmer is much more than just a producer of delicious food, or the most important link to our food system, or a powerful tool in the fight against climate change. A farmer is a small business. A small business that needs to put food on their own table, pay rent or a mortgage, fund websites and payroll, make sales, and manage cash flow.

The small farms in Sierra Small Business Development Center’s region have a unique set of challenges that many conventional business resources don’t address. This year, we have tried to break that barrier in a few ways. We kicked off the year by teaching several courses for Sierra Harvest’s Farm Biz, a business course for farmers taught in Nevada City. Through Sierra Harvest we hope to continue providing support for small farms in Nevada County, especially as production (and the farmers market!) ramps up for the summer.

Sierra Small Business Development Center also presented at Valley Vision’s AgPlus Rural Food Business Workshop, a free workshop connecting food and ag businesses to business resources and financing opportunities. We will be at a food manufacturing AgPlus workshop in Grass Valley later this month through the Center for Economic Development, continuing our presentation of resources to the farming community. These workshops may not be as fun as walking the stalls of a market, but they give us important access to the small farms in our region to publicize the resources available for support.

As the small farms of our region gear up towards their summer season, we aim to provide continued support through workshops and one-on-one, no-cost, business consulting. Consultants can help small farms work through typical issues from creating a legitimate business to payroll and HR issues to sales strategies and brand development.

Sierra SBDC consultants may not know how to grow romanesco (though we certainly know how to enjoy it!), but we are experts in growing businesses. It’s a beautiful relationship, really. The Sierra SBDC wants the small farms in our region to not just survive, but to THRIVE. From there, I think you’ll know what to do – see you at the farmers’ market!