Field Notes Blog > AgBiz Graduate Applied Lessons Learned to Community Outreach Startup

  • AgBiz Graduate Applied Lessons Learned to Community Outreach Startup

    September 11, 2017

    Heidi Witmer shares her experiences and six tips for other entrepreneurs. 

    Founded in 2013 by AgBiz graduate Heidi Witmer, the Leadership, Education and Farming (LEAF) Project’s mission is to cultivate youth leaders from diverse backgrounds through meaningful work in the food system. Before launching her LEAF idea, Heidi decided to enroll in AgChoice’s AgBiz Masters (ABM) program with farmer Megan Rulli, Piney Mountain Orchards.

    “Megan was a couple years ahead of me in her business when we started the program,” remembered Heidi. “When we reviewed the ABM case studies, we had two lenses to view them — an existing business and a potential business. I think it was so valuable for us to work with Megan’s farm’s financials during ABM,” she explained. “We could study with real numbers and apply them.”

    “With ABM, the concepts we learned held across various operations, from a third generation dairy operation to a one-woman organic farm trying a new crop,” Heidi recalled.

    Today, Megan’s business is a partner LEAF farm, and the ABM graduates continue their accountability, meeting during the winter to analyze each other’s operations. “It keeps us disciplined,” said Heidi. “It is a financial best practice from ABM — benchmark and share.”

    Heidi and Megan review each other’s balance sheets, watching for their businesses’ financial health. “We want to know if our risk paid off from the previous year,” shared Heidi. “ABM definitely helped me take more risk in my business.”

    Reflecting on her journey from LEAF concept to today’s growing organization, Heidi offers the following advice for other entrepreneurs:
    • Embrace the marathon. Don’t give 110% to everything and then have no energy to plan.
    • Be vigorous about wrapping up the season. Plan for closing as much as for opening. Protect the boundaries for your people.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your energy isn’t limitless.
    • Figure out who you want on your team.
    • The hardest and best learning is from your parents.

    To learn more about LEAF, visit the program’s website at www.leafprojectpa.org.

    To learn more about AgBiz Masters, visit www.agbizmasters.com.
     

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