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Terra Firma: A Six-Session Course to Build Your Farm Business on Solid Ground

Course Details for the Cumberland River Compact’s new 6-part business course for farmers

We are excited to introduce a new business-intensive course under the River Friendly Farms umbrella: “Terra Firma: A Six-Session Course to Build Your Farm Business on Solid Ground.” With this new course, the Cumberland River Compact demonstrates a commitment to helping our region’s farmers succeed not only in their conservation initiatives but also in their business goals. Read more about the Cumberland River Compact’s commitment to helping farmers succeed in their both their business and conversation goals.

Course Details

We are thrilled to bring in top-notch instructors from around the country and our region to share their expertise. A full curriculum is below.

The six-week course will take place on Tuesday evenings from January 9 – February 13, 2024 from 4 p.m.  to 7 p.m. Delicious meals will be sponsored by some of our favorite restaurants, including Streetcar Taps & Garden, Miel, and Nicky’s Pizza. 


The Who, Where, What, When, and Where

Who: Farmers with one to ten years of managerial experience. Historically underserved farmers and ranchers (HUFR) are strongly encouraged to apply.

Where: The Nashville Food Project, 5904 California Ave, Nashville, TN 37209 

When: 4 p.m.–7 p.m. on January 9, 16, 23, 30, and February 6 and 13.

Why: You are ready to sharpen your business skills with the help of coaches and farmers who have been taught and participated in successful farm teams.

Cost: Once accepted through the application process, this course is offered at no cost to participating farmers, thanks to a grant from Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE).


Register Here


Apply to Receive a Stipend for your Participation

A limited number of students will be chosen to receive a $500 stipend to cover expenses associated with the five-week program, such as travel or childcare. Stipends will be given on a needs-based basis, with priority given to historically underserved farmers and ranchers (HUFR).

The Compact is proud to support HUFR and aims to provide these individuals and farms with increased access to resources. As defined by the USDA, this group includes farmers who are Beginning, Socially Disadvantaged, Veterans, and of Limited Resource. 


Apply here for a stipend


Full Curriculum

January 9: “Setting the Stage with Whole Farm Planning” with Asher Wright of Caney Fork Farm

  • Build your personal values list.
  • Define your holistic context.
  • Develop personalized context checks and tools to help you decide what is most important when you come up on a difficult decision. 
  • Understand what enterprise will work based on land access, resources, and life goals.
  • Establish accountability partners and quarterly goals.

Asher has a diverse career background working in both for-profit farm businesses and agriculture education. He is an Accredited Professional with the Savory Institute, a non-profit that seeks to expand the Holistic Management framework into global consciousness with urgency. He is currently the Farm Director at Caney Fork Farms. Wright has been working in regenerative agriculture since 2005, with a heavy focus on diversified crop and livestock systems. He received an M.S. in Animal Science from Clemson University. While at Clemson, he researched forage-finished beef, studying both animal performance and the interface between meat quality and human health.     

January 16: “Farm Financial Management and Record Keeping” with Richard Wiswall of Cate Farm*

  • Find your farm’s profit centers. Which parts of your farm make the most money and which may actually be losing money?
  • Develop efficient planning, office management, and farm appropriate financial concepts.
  • Understand how to quickly run a cost-benefit analysis.
  • Create a balance sheet and P&L statement for your farm and understand how to update it at any point in time.
  • Use your financial data to make real decisions about your farm business in regard to equipment purchases and other investments. Understand how much debt you can afford to take on.

*Richard will join us virtually for this class.

Richard Wiswall started Cate Farm in East Montpelier, Vermont, where he has farmed since 1981. Known for his work on farm profitability and appropriate business tools, Wiswall consults with other farmers, and writes and speaks frequently on organic-farm business issues. He is the author of The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook and Business Advice for Organic Farmers, a practical workshop available on DVD. 

January 23: “Project and Team Management with Scrum: Realistic Expectation Systems Thinking and Project Management Using Scrum” with Andrea Heim

  • Understand how to build trust and accountability with your team to increase self-management and share the weight of the farm.
  • Use empirical data to set realistic expectations and more accurately plan for the future.
  • Know several physical and virtual scrum board options to easily and cheaply implement on your farm.

Andrea Heim is an entrepreneur, consultant and certified Scrum master based in Cleveland, Ohio. Introducing Scrum into both her professional and private lives freed up her capacity to continue farming while working with the collaborative teams at Tilth Soil and Tunnel Vision Hoops and pursuing training as a sexual health educator. She has written about Scrum for the Growing for Market magazine and has been a featured guest on their podcast.

January 30: “Creating Positive Farm Labor Experiences” with Sarah Janes Ugoretz 

  • Create systems to support professional hiring, onboarding, and termination practices.
  • Strengthen communication on the farm through informal tools and formal practices, including employee check-ins and reviews.
  • Increase productivity and satisfaction by understanding what motivates employees – and what motivates you! – and using that to meet the farm’s needs.
  • Explore the financial picture on your farm and how you can work towards meeting employees’ financial needs through monetary and non-monetary benefits.

Sarah supports the Organic Vegetable Farm Manager Apprenticeship, an employment-based apprenticeship program registered with the state of Wisconsin. She’s a co-creator and trainer on FairShare CSA Coalition’s two labor management training programs, and earned her PhD through UW-Madison with a focus on supporting positive labor experiences and long-term career pathways in diversified vegetable production. Sarah works closely with farmers – both owners and employees – in all aspects of her work, and also draws from her own experience as a former farmworker and manager.  

February 6: “Accessing Capital with Grants and Marketing Your Products”

  • More Details Coming Soon

February 13: Final Presentation and Celebration

  • A 4-person panel will offer feedback on the tools or framework you’ll be implementing this year.
  • Celebrate your hard work and the year to come!

For additional information on the “Terra Firma” course or our River Friendly Farms Program, contact Caroline Hutchins at