Registrations are now closed for the 2021-22 CYFF Farm Your Numbers Program, Presented by RBC®.

The Farm Your Numbers course will be delivered virtually and is scheduled for December 2021 - January 2022.

Farm Your Confidence

The Farm Your Numbers program helped Amy VanderHeide
realize a goal she’s had for 20 years.

By Jess Campbell

There is never a shortage of things to do as a young farmer. Oftentimes, there are so many things on the To Do list that you can easily put off certain tasks that don’t seem as important or as urgent. But that doesn’t mean those things shouldn’t eventually get done.

Amy VanderHeide is a broiler, beef and grain farmer from Coldbrook, Nova Scotia, and participated in the most recent cohort of the Farm Your Numbers program. While most participants come out of the program having a drastically more in depth knowledge of their farm business, Amy came out with that and something else.

“A direct result of taking the Farm Your Numbers program is that I, as of September, started going back to community college to get my business diploma,” Amy says. Married at 19 and with her first baby at 21, Amy always knew she wanted marriage and a family. What she didn’t know was what was next. “I had applied to college out of high school but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. It has always been in the back of my mind to go back to school at some point. Last year, being stuck at home, I took some workplace education courses that are offered through the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture. I took financial management and leadership, then Farm Your Numbers on top of that. It just gave me the confidence that I can do this.”

Amy and her husband own a small commercial cow calf herd, for which Amy does all of the bookkeeping; the broiler and grain operations are farmed together with Amy’s in-laws. While it’s almost impossible to compare the two farms in terms of numbers, Amy has gained a vast amount of confidence in being able to understand what’s going on for both operations. “When you’re using numbers or anything financial, you have to be able to relate it to something,” Amy says. “(The program) made me look at the numbers of our farm in a whole new light. It forms a relationship with those numbers and with the business. So many of us plug those numbers into a computer, the computer does the work and we don’t think twice about it. But really, it allows you to get to know those numbers and ratios, and why this amount is what it is and what that means for the future of your business.”

Amy says that her level of understanding of her farm numbers is what helped boost her confidence overall, enough to go back to college. “It’s scary when you’re not doing (the books). It’s scary to look at those numbers because, oftentimes, you don’t understand what you’re looking at. So, to go through the program and to network with other farmers just gave me the confidence that I needed to take that dive and go for it.”

Amy is a great example of what participating in the Farm Your Numbers program can do for someone. Yes, you’ll get a handle on your farm business numbers and feel more confident in that aspect. But you may also gain confidence in other areas of your life, too. Who would have thought a course about managing your farm business could potentially build your confidence level overall?

“It goes so much farther beyond knowing your numbers,” Amy says. “I’ve always wanted to go back to school, but I don’t know if I would have gone back if I hadn’t participated in the program this year. You actually develop a business plan. Especially for young farmers, when it seems there’s always a lot stacked against us to either get into farming or grow a farm or even just change into something new. Having that business plan and knowing what it means, you have all that information behind you. For young farmers who’re at the point where they’re looking ahead to their future and what can make that easier for them, Farm Your Numbers is definitely something they should do.”

The Farm Your Numbers program may be one more thing to add to your To Do list, but it definitely will be worth doing sooner rather than later.

Registration is now open for the next cohort of the Farm Your Numbers program, scheduled virtually to begin in December 2021 and continue until January 2022. Head to for details and to register.

Registrations are now closed for the 2021-22 CYFF Farm Your Numbers Program, Presented by RBC®.

The Farm Your Numbers course will be delivered virtually and is scheduled for December 2021 - January 2022.

Succeeding with Farm Your Numbers

While understanding your farm numbers is top priority, Andrea DeRoo discovered the Farm Your Numbers program applies to much more than that.

By Jess Campbell

The Farm Your Numbers program is obviously about, well, numbers. But it can also help young farmers with various other aspects of the farm business, such as succession plans.

Andrea DeRoo, along with her parents and brother, is a grain and commercial cow calf farmer from Southeast Saskatchewan. Andrea decided to participate in the program in 2020, not only because she’d heard good things about it but also because she finally felt it was time for her to be more involved in the business side of the farm she would inherit from her parents.

“As we got talking (with my parents) about my brother and I taking over the farm and some of the behind-the-scenes work that needs to be done, I was like, okay, it’s time. I need to start to understand these ratios, what they mean, why they’re important, and just make sure we keep the farm financially operational as we take it over, and then beyond that.”

Admittedly, Andrea had not worried too much about the farm’s numbers before, but with good reason. “My mom is a trained accountant, so my brother and I never had to worry about the numbers. Mom was dealing with it!”

As young farmers well know, if there’s an opportunity to learn more about your farm’s numbers from the previous generation, you take it. Participating in the Farm Your Numbers program helped Andrea do that, and more. “It really helped our team’s communication a lot. My dad and brother work mostly at the daily operation of the farm, then I am more focused on the field management side. We never really spoke to one another as a team (about what was going on in our respective areas). The program brought us together and allowed us to make some strategic decisions more confidently on our farm.”

Another significant way the program helped Andrea and her farm was by Andrea winning the contest, a financial bonus which allowed them to purchase more land and expand their farm sooner rather than later.

Perhaps one aspect of the program Andrea wasn’t expecting to be so impactful was the section on succession planning. “At first, my brother and I weren’t in the succession plan conversation. It was really being driven by my mom. Getting that perspective of succession planning from the program’s coordinators, learning about that parent/child dynamic, understanding where people are coming from, even human resources management and understanding that everyone has goals on the farm, and how we can all function as a team—the succession planning part helped me realize that it was time to get things down on paper and actually start the planning. It also helped us understand how to manage things so we’re not financially burdened by the numbers. My mom’s philosophy is that she and dad would like to die broke.” (laughs)

Now when Andrea looks at the farm she’s taking over, she’s able to understand not only the daily numbers but also what the future will look like for both she and her brother as they become primary owners of their operation. “For my brother and I, we learned how much flexibility we had to take on more debt. We found out that we were sitting really good, and that there might be an opportunity to expand on our land purchases in the area, and that now was a good time to do that. We have picked up a small number of acres because of that without putting us in a terrible place financially.”

Andrea’s advice to any young farmer considering participating in Farm Your Numbers is pretty simple. “Do it! (laughs) I was big into 4H, and their motto is learn to do by doing. This course has such an educational part but then also has a practical part of actually putting what you’ve learned into practice on your farm that year. It’s a fantastic program.”

Registrations are now closed for the 2021-22 CYFF Farm Your Numbers Program, Presented by RBC®.

The Farm Your Numbers course will be delivered virtually and is scheduled for December 2021 - January 2022.

A Blooming Farm Business

How do you pivot a booming agri-tourism business so it’s more manageable? You farm your numbers, according to Alexis Szarek.

By Jess Campbell

For almost five years, Alexis Szarek ran the ever-popular Abbotsford Tulip Festival just outside of Abbotsford, British Columbia. Each spring, she and her father, along with a multitude of help, would plant ten acres of tulip bulbs, turning that acreage into a rainbow of vivid colour come mid-year. Upwards of 80,000 people would travel to the Festival every season, which was great for the dollar side of the business—but not so great for the mental or physical side of it.

Marriage, children and a desire to run a significantly less stressful but still financially viable business helped Alexis and her family decide to move away from the Abbotsford Tulip Festival, both literally and figuratively.

“In Abbotsford, it was crazy,” says Alexis. “Financially sustainable but not mentally or physically sustainable. We have two young kids and our marriage to consider! We’ve taken our business and moved it up into a quieter area where we can run a smaller but more sustainable festival.”

Alexis, her family and the tulip farm have moved to a new location, nestled in the Okanagan Valley, about an hour north of Kelowna. While the Coronavirus and a huge flood had significantly changed their 2020 plans already, Alexis says the Farm Your Numbers program she participated in at the end of such a tumultuous year gave her confidence in making the move in the first place. “In Abbotsford, we were working with my father’s farm. Whereas here, in the Okanagan, we’re doing it on our own. We have our own equipment and had to buy our own bulbs. We’re starting small and growing from there. But there’s nothing like what we’re doing up here, and that’s where the Farm Your Numbers program really helped. You have your numbers and you look at them and you can see the whole picture of your farm: strengths, weaknesses, competition, government policies, the entire financial health of the farm.”

For Alexis, it was the opportunity to really dig deep into her farm business numbers that she enjoyed the most, not only to see the historical trends of the tulip business but also to be able to confidently forecast expectations for the new location. “They talk about cash flow and budgets, but they have this financial analysis piece where they give you metrics—your margin ratios, your cost ratios, your investment performance—and they give you ways to calculate that and measure what you’re doing compared to your industry’s standards. Tulips and agri-tourism don’t have a strong set of industry standards to measure against, but the program gives you ways to think about it and ranges to consider so you know what a healthy business looks like for your sector.”

Having a bit of business experience and learning as you go is one thing. But having a handle on your farm’s financials and understanding the numbers, calculations and financial potential of your business can open up a world of possibilities—or at least help you get a loan when you need it. “I can read a spreadsheet and financial statements,” says Alexis. “But what the program provides you is an entirely new level of understanding and confidence in your business. Everything was fantastic in the course. But those ratios, and understanding how to calculate them and what a reasonable range, a great range, etcetera, was, and knowing where we could improve or see what was better than I’d thought, that was amazing. These ratios and measurements are really helpful when you’re going to talk to a bank for a loan. You’re talking in a language that they understand. You don’t just feel like you know what you’re doing, you actually know what you’re doing.”

Knowing her farm numbers also helped Alexis to conduct a “strategic test run” on the new farm in the form of a Sunflower Festival, held in August 2021. The inaugural Okanagan Tulip Festival will happen in the spring of 2022, and the Farm Your Numbers program has helped Alexis to not only understand what worked in the past for her business but to also look forward and grow the new business in a financially, mentally and physically sustainable way. “You really can’t afford not to register for this program!” says Alexis. “The information you learn, the calculations you learn to do, the confidence you build in your ability to run your own farm business, the soft business skills you learn… it jump starts your business knowledge and definitely puts you much further ahead than you would be if you went about trying to learn it all on your own.”

A guided and self-study course designed for young farmers to aid producers with identifying strengths and areas for improvement to help make operations more profitable and successful. 

A course designed just for young farmers

  • strategic planning

  • basic financial management

  • human resource management

  • succession planning

® Trademark of Royal Bank of Canada.