Kerry Planck of Wales, NY, knows farming. What began as a passion project raising goats a decade ago has turned into a successful business, Alpine Made, skincare products made from certified raw organic goat’s milk. While farming came easy for Planck, marketing a new business and getting product into the hands of customers proved to be more difficult. That was until she found a mentor and assistance.
In building her business, Planck sought out resources in her community, including USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), whose programs gave her the tools she needed to help accomplish her goals.
FSA provided Planck with her initial financing and she continues to work with FSA for her working capital needs. FSA farm loan programs provide access to credit to start, expand and strengthen farming and ranching operations. She utilized the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) for fencing and other infrastructure on her farm.
“It’s tremendous what USDA has to offer for people like me — a woman farmer and organic producer,” Planck said.
In 2011, Planck attended an event coordinated between the Small Business Administration (SBA) and SCORE, a network of volunteer mentors, and resource partner of the SBA. She sought out and was connected to a mentor, David Bunis, a businessman with expertise in sales, marketing and finance.
“That was what I really lacked in. I knew I had to sell my brand. I knew I had a good product and I could manage my farm properly, but I didn’t know how to effectively market this wonderful product to the public,” she said. “David was wonderful at walking me through the process and has been for the last six years.”
In an effort to meet the needs of agricultural producers like Planck, USDA partnered with SCORE in 2017. The collaboration provides resources that help beginning farmers and ranchers, veterans, women, socially disadvantaged Americans, and other producers grow and thrive in agribusiness.
Planck also worked with the New York Small Business Development Center to help structure her business plan. Then, she and Bunis worked through the financial aspect — how to do projections, how to look at revenue versus expenses and the role of profit in business growth. He advises her on when to be conservative, or when to seize worthwhile opportunities.
“A lot of new farms need help,” Planck said. “They need to make sure they are growing their product and getting to market, the last thing they want to think about is the financial growth strategy. SCORE can provide tremendous support in that aspect.”
Alpine Made now boasts a line of over 50 products which can be found in over 40 stores in western New York with plans to expand to stores in the eastern part of the state. She encourages other farmers to look for resources like SCORE as they plan for the future.
“My main word of advice is that SCORE can direct the success of your business in ways that a farmer may not envision,” she said. “Farmers are incredible business people, but their main focus is to keep the operation going. Sometimes we lack in the financial aspect of keeping the business growing, especially for small farms.”
Farmers can now sign up for a mentor and learn more about the collaboration between SCORE and USDA at https://newfarmers.usda.gov/mentorship, or by visiting an FSA county office. For more information on USDA programs and assistance, visit www.farmers.gov.