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From petroleum to poultry

Business plan charts career leap for young Ontario farmer.


September 16, 2019
By Lilian Schaer

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Jonathan and Andrea Giret became broiler producers thanks to the Chicken Famers of Ontario new entrant program. PHOTO CREDIT: chicken farmers of ontario

Although Jonathan Giret was raised on a small beef farm near Springfield, Ont., his immediate career path after graduation from the University of Guelph took him out west and away from agriculture.

Five years in Alberta’s oilfields helped him purchase two farms near Dutton, and thanks to the Chicken Farmers of Ontario new entrant program, Jonathan and his wife Andrea, a high school teacher, became broiler producers, placing their first flock in January 2017.

Thanks to his certifications as a safety officer and a nutrient management consultant, he also launched Elite Agri Solutions last year, a consulting business to help fellow farmers with nutrient management, farm safety and grant applications.

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Good business planning is what helped Jonathan oversee his barn building project and make the transition from day job to self-employment. In fact, according to the Agri-Food Management Institute (AMI) Dollars and Sense study, having a formal business plan in place is one of the top seven habits of successful farmers.

Others include continuous learning, using accurate financial data, working with advisors, knowing and monitoring cost of production, assessing and managing risk and using budgets and financial plans.

“During my barn build, my business plan helped keep me sane. By having a plan and budget in place, I was able to track the build against my anticipated costs and make changes to accommodate overages,” Jonathan explains.

And now that he’s up and running, the plan and its one-year and five-year goals help keep him on track and prioritize by the numbers. His farm’s mission statement, he says, is “we make choices on math, not emotion.”

Benchmarking helps him with the numbers, too, and so far, he’s happy with his results. And he makes use of key advisors, which are mainly other farmers with more experience in the industry, but also lawyers, accountants and financial advisors who each bring their own specialty to the table.

Jonathan is an advocate for continuing education, prioritizing a large amount of his time into research, reading and attending industry events.

“Professional development is very important to me; I hope that through self-study and networking, I can avoid issues and capitalize on opportunities that I may not be able to otherwise,” he says.

Many of the top seven habits are linked and work well together, according to AMI executive director Ashley Honsberger, but they can also be applied individually.

“For farmers first starting down the business management path, it can be a bit daunting to think that you have to start with all seven habits at once,” Honsberger says. “But even making one change can have benefits for your farm business – and because many of the habits are connected, once you start one, the next one will come more easily.”


This story is provided by the Agri-Food Management Institute. AMI receives funding from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.