Risk Management for Farmers

There is a lot of risk involved in farming. To help you navigate these risks, we’ve assembled some resources we created with support from a grant through the USDA Risk Management Agency.

From the Organic Broadcaster (scroll down)
From the In Her Boots Podcast
Additional Resources


Stories from the Organic Broadcaster

Pandemic shines light on strategies that help farmers build resilient businesses
March | April 2021

As destabilizing as the COVID-19 pandemic has been for farmers and food producers nationwide, it has also opened our eyes to new opportunities and solutions. We’re having conversations and exploring new ideas about how to build strong individual farm businesses that can work independently as well as collectively to protect our country’s food system. There are many opportunities for producers to increase their farm’s resilience. Read more.


New, free toolkit helps farmers launch value-added baking business from home

Thanks to expanding cottage food laws nationwide, we farmers have an easy on-ramp for income diversification: selling baked goods made in our home kitchens. Read more.


New year provides good point to assess financial outlook, set goals

The start of a new year is a good time to assess your farm’s financial condition. The steps outlined here and in the Fearless Farm Finances online course highlight best practices. Read more.


Looming forage crisis requires farmers to take action to survive

Forage inventories in the spring of 2020 will likely be even lower than this year; organic forage could be largely unavailable after the first of the year. On our grass-based livestock farm in Lena, Wis., we’ve been doing everything we can to ensure we can survive this forage crisis. Here are some tips to help your farm survive as well. Read more.


Farmers take multi-pronged approach to build resilient specialty crop farms

In the early years of a farm, as you’re busy accumulating equipment and building infrastructure, there’s often nothing left to set aside to hedge against risk and ruin. Farming is, without doubt, risky business. The USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) introduced Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) several years ago to help farmers with diverse operations. Read more.



Risk Management Podcasts

Supported by the USDA Risk Management Agency award #RM18RMEPP522C043

Managing Risk with a Community Food Hub
FL Morris of Grassroots Farm in Monroe, Wisconsin, grows certified organic vegetables and raises pastured livestock. FL is a founding member, president and membership director of the South Central Wisconsin Hemp Cooperative, the first organic farmer-led hemp cooperative in the state. In this episode, she talks about how to manage risk by joining/creating a regional food hub.

Using Cover Crops as Forage

Kelly Placke-Raaum of Placke Organic Acres in Cuba City, Wisconsin, manages risk by building soil fertility through cover crops and then uses these crops as winter feed for the cows.

Risk Management with CSA
Barb Perkins of Vermont Valley Community Farm near Madison, Wisconsin, explains how the CSA model helped her farm manage risk. Highlights of today’s conversation include making the most of space by succession planting and the all-important “C” in CSA: community.

Safe Farm Environment for Workers
Barb Perkins of Vermont Valley Community Farm near Madison, Wisconsin, reflects on things to think about when moving to paid staff and the role worker-shares played on her farm. Listen in for ideas to use on your farm to keep workers safe.

Reducing Business Risk through Value-Added Meat Products

Jen Riemer of Riemer Family Farm in south-central Wisconsin talking about how value-added meat products add to the farm’s business mix and help the family farm manage risk. Jen explains the challenge of finding processors to produce their value-added products, such as sausage sticks and ground turkey, and explores opportunities for more ready-to-eat meat product options for today’s busy consumers.

Caring for Land for the Long Game
What can you do now to improve your land for years to come? Listen in as Jen Riemer of Riemer Family Farm in Wisconsin explains her family’s systems-based, holistic approach to nurturing the land for the long term. Livestock and cover crops play big roles! We discuss our appreciation for diversity and how our nurturing instincts serve us well in farming.

Cover Crops for Healthy Soils and Livestock Forage
We’re back with Jen Riemer to talk about the importance of diversity on the farm. Jen shares how she uses cover crops to build healthy soil, and adds value/fertility by using cover crops as livestock forage—wins all around!

Farm Law—How Diversifying Your Business Impacts Labor Rules
Rachel Armstrong of Farm Commons helps us navigate employment rules when we venture outside of farming into value-added products, on-farm food service, offering classes, etc. While this diversification is great for spreading risk over a broad range of enterprises, it changes the rules for paying employees. Hear Rachel’s recommendations to help you avoid problems.

Farm Help—Legal Aspects of Hired Hands & Volunteers
Today, Rachel Armstrong helps us understand “human risk” on our specialty crop farms. Learn about the different categories of labor, from volunteers to paid staff, and how to navigate legally and safely for everyone.

Navigating Risks when Marketing Value-Added Products
Rachel Armstrong of Farm Commons talks about empowering women farmers to take charge of our businesses and manage risk effectively. Farming is unpredictable with variables we cannot control. Rachel helps us navigate and plan for what we can control, with a particular focus today on direct marketing value-added products.

Find the Sweet Spot with a Regional Food Hub
We’re back with Rachel Armstrong of Farm Commons to talk about legal issues on the farm and dig into the concept of risk and how to manage that. Rachel explains how marketing through a regional food hub can be “the sweet spot” for farmers, providing the right amount of support so they can hit a home run in the farming business.

Marketing Local Grains
Halee Wepking of Meadowlark Organics shares how she navigates the legalities as she direct markets organic grains to local bakeries and consumers.

Marketing through Local Food Hub to Manage Risk
Artisanal bakers and craft brewers have created a demand for local grains. Halee Wepking of Meadowlark Organics explains how to access these markets and manage risk by marketing through a regional food hub.

Risk Mitigation With Cover Crops
Marie Raboin of Brix Cider explains how she uses cover crops as livestock forage and how that helps her farm’s bottom line while building soil fertility.

Advice on Managing Workers 

Marie Raboin of Brix Cider shares how she manages staff in the orchard and the rest of her businesses. Learn how to identify and manage human risks on a specialty crop farm like hers, and, how to retain employees by keeping it all fun in the process.

Advice on Managing Legal Risk
Every business, including a farm, has legal risks associated with it. Hear how Marie Raboin of Brix Cider identifies and manages legal risks in running her farm and cider business. Find and hire the experts, advises Marie. Even if you pay more upfront, it will definitely payback in the long term when direct marketing value-added products.

Managing Risk with Cover Crops

Everyone’s talking about cover crops. In this conversation, farmer Clare Hintz of Elsewhere Farm shares how she uses cover crops for livestock forage. Take a “birds-eye” view of her farm and “see” her American Guinea hogs and how she employs them and other means to add soil fertility and control pests in her perennial fruit orchard.

Adding Value while Farming Solo
On today’s episode, Clare Hintz of Elsewhere Farm discusses how she, as a solo woman farmer, manages risk through value-added products, like the pickles she makes for her CSA box, and how to do things safely when farming alone.

Managing Risk on a Specialty Crop Farm
We welcome back farmer Clare Hintz of Elsewhere Farm on the banks of Lake Superior in Wisconsin. Clare shares how she identifies and deals with risks on her specialty crop farm. She explains how you can work fast but safely, manage labor, and more importantly, take care of your farm’s most important asset:  you!

Diversifying to Manage Risk in Farming
Today we dig deeper with Alicia Razvi of Wooly Thyme Micro Farm to learn how she manages risk through diversification. Not putting all the eggs in one basket is a strategy that has worked well for Alicia, especially during those beginning CSA years. She shares her risk-management strategies from interplanting produce to planning for those “just in case” moments.




Risk Management Workshops


Journey to a Food Hub

Food hubs are part of the important infrastructure necessary for local farmers to access good markets for their products and build relationships with distributors, retailers, institutions, and eaters. Our panelists will share how things are going for their diverse food hubs. You’ll learn about the challenges and opportunities of starting a food hub, building markets and relationships, as well as financial and logistical realities. View PDF


Successful Work Teams on the Farm

Your farm’s success depends on a strong work crew to help you meet your goals and timelines. In this session, you’ll assess your management preferences, strengths, and stressors, and explore strategies to be a better communicator when managing employees and family members who may or may not share your work style preferences. You’ll also learn the basic farm employment laws every producer needs to know to avoid penalties and create a legally resilient business. View PDF.


Grazing Cover Crops

Explore grazing cover crops both in a produce operation and a medium-scale diversified livestock operation. Jen Riemer of Riemer Family Farm will share her experience on a multi-generational farm, while Ayla Graden-Dodge of Blackbrook Farm will share her experiences starting a farm from scratch. View PDF 1 and view PPt 2 (coming soon). View hand-out 1 and view hand-out 2.


Managing Risk for Value-Added Endeavors

If you’re considering a value-added venture as an income stream for your farm, attend this session to learn about some of the potential risks and how to look at value-added ventures through a whole-farm lens. View hand-out.



Additional Resources

Free farm financial training modules

The Farm Business Production Management team at Western Technical College in La Crosse, Wis., has created educational modules to explain concepts introduced in the MOSES book Fearless Farm Finances. The free online course includes webinars and worksheets covering everything from goal-setting to tips to improve profitability. The course is designed to be self-paced; farmers can choose to complete one or all of the webinars, depending on personal need.


Recordkeeping Forms

Optimize your recordkeeping time by using the forms in this workbook for both organic certification and crop insurance reporting. Workbook and individual spreadsheets available.



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