Get Off The Fence - Own A Farm Today – Your questions answered

Get Off The Fence - Own A Farm Today – Your questions answered

Cultivate Farms

Many of you have questions about Cultivator - the farm incubator program that enables farm ownership to become a reality. In this article, we hear from farmers who are Cultivator graduates, and from would-be farmers ‘on the fence’ about signing up. We address their questions and encourage you to read on and sign up for Cultivate today. Spaces are limited. Applications close 8 March 2021.

Sam Marwood, CEO of Cultivate Farms and Adam Gibson, Cultivator coach and facilitator are in conversation with some of our potential intake for Cultivate; tackling their questions and barriers about joining the program. The Cultivate Farms Business Incubator ‘Cultivator’ gets aspiring and current farm owners, ready to scale, ready for co-investment. 

The Cultivator 10-week program guides you through the development of a farm investment proposal. You’ll also have the opportunity to pitch to a panel of investors for the potential of co-ownership of a farm.

"The Cultivator program provides another possible avenue for farm ownership, which is out of reach for many farmers who aren't going to inherit or don't have the millions of dollars needed to buy-in. Cultivator offers farmers the skills of entrepreneurs to develop a partnership with investors. We want to get people farming," says Cultivate Farms CEO, Sam Marwood.

“If you don’t have a farm pitch, you  can't get in front of investors and retiree farmers. It's just so much harder without a proposal,” he continues.

There are farmers out there like 87-year-old Milton. He is 87 and has grandchildren who don’t want his farm. He is struggling, but still wants to be involved in farming, but he wants the right kind of joint ownership proposal. When an aspiring farmer has a professional and prepared approach, Milton is more likely to consider co-owning his farm with someone else. 

That's exactly what Cultivate is all about, helping aspiring farmers to write and clarify exactly what they need in a farm and be supported by good people and experts and other farmers

to have the right pitch and financial model so they can act on opportunities that come up for co-ownership of farms, working with investors on a simple to understand financial model. 

Joseph is on the fence

Joseph is a farmer in Western Victoria “I'm probably sitting on the fence mentally to join the March 2021 intake mainly due to time I have four young kids and a little side hustle business, a sheep pregnancy scanning that occupies my time from March through to July. Plus we are affiliated with a family farm and we do have equity available to us although that is very unclear as we're just kind of unpacking a bit of the succession process. I’ve just signed up for the Cultivate 4 program. The dream for me would be sort of like a mixed cropping livestock type operation I've got a bit of experience in broadacre cropping but I have plenty to learn. This is a great program to help get us on our way and perfect our proposal.”

Andrew is an aspiring farmer from South East Queensland. “I am thinking of trying to find a farm with some kind of Polyface system, incorporating some education in that farming space. We are thinking of spaces in Northern New South Wales or an hour north of Brisbane. I know I need to prepare a professional approach, that clearly shows the income and revenue projections.”

Adam Gibson, facilitator and coach on the Cultivate program has been in the investor and regenerative agriculture space for some time. He responds: “I entered the regenerative ag space from an impact point of view. I could see the emerging need for this regenerative and good farming practice and how it needed to become part of a mainstream narrative. I could see there's all this money floating around the cities looking for a home and yet there are all these farmers looking for money and no one's matchmaking. Before the Cultivate incubator, there was no pathway between the two.”

“With Cultivator, we've come up with a model that de-risks and demystifies an investment in Agriculture for an average investor. We have made farm investment as vanilla as possible and as simple as possible for an investor to understand returns.”

Adam continues: “ The shift that's happened the last 12 months has changed the appetite for investors and consumers to want to invest in the food system because people understand the inherent frailty in our food system. We are just starting to realize we need to be producing food sources in our country -  that's the appetite investors are seeing. I’ve read a report from Jeremy Grantham from a big private investment firm. He manages 180 billion dollars of other people's money. He issued a report called ‘the race of our lives in 2018 highlighting how we've got a food system crashing due to poor agricultural practices and that in his view that’s where there is the biggest investment opportunity of our life is. The appetite is there we've just got to make it palatable. You have to be – prepared, professional and persistent.”

“Investors have to feel comfortable. We can compare what we are doing with people investing in farms to commercial real estate investment. Commercial real estate investors go in and say ‘look I’ve got some money I can't park it in the bank I’ll get nothing for it right perhaps under a per cent, maybe if I can go and put some investment into a commercial property, a service station, for example, I can take a tenth share, but I have to spend five million dollars on a service station. I can put half a million dollars in with 10 other people in a unit trust and I'll get a four per cent return on it over 15 years with a gold star tenant e.g. a Caltex for example, I know I'm going to keep my money, I know in 15 years that property is going to be worth a lot more than when I started - it's a ‘set and forget’ type investment. That’s the appetite out there. We have developed a formula to get your story in front of the right people.”

Don’t sit and wait – craft your story with Cultivator 

“There are a lot of retiring farmers looking for solutions and there are so many people with money who don't realize that they can invest into farms and our model is now to empower you to be on the front foot you don't have to sit around waiting for someone else to come in and say ‘hey I want to buy you your farm for you and here's what you're going to do. You just tell us and you figure out what you want and we'll keep uncovering these farmers like we are doing up in the Herbert catchment area and all over Australia - it's your job just to know what you want to put it in front of them. It’s such a great message for Investors - you don't have to run your farm yourself you just got to back a great farmer and own it with them. There is a massive opportunity and Cultivate activates this.”

You are investable – and investors need you

“I hear from investor people who curate investors into investments and their problem is deal flow, they haven't got enough investable stock you know in their mind so we're positioning you guys potentially as the investable option for these investors.”

Impact investing is on the rise – you have a unique story, craft it

“There is a growing appetite for impact type investing. The idea of ethical investing is really important to a lot of people now and to the extent that the banks are catching on and positioning themselves in this space. They are looking for investments that align with the consumer sentiment so as a farmer you have a unique impact story to tell in terms of the food system - how you treat the land, how you treat animals, how you treat your community, your family, the legacy and succession there's a whole impact biodiversity is a big one how you manage waste, how you deal with chemicals and pollutants and so on the impact story that goes with that is just so hot right now that I encourage all of whatever you do with Cultivate consider the impact part of what you're up to because that's where people the investors will buy in with their hearts, but they'll need to justify the deal with logic so they need to believe in the deal upfront and feel good about it you know it's more exciting for example than buying a Caltex service station what you guys are doing they feel more connected to it but they also need to know that you know it's as boring as vanilla and as reliable as a Caltex service station in terms of my investment and long-term returns - so that's really what the Cultivator program will steer you towards is being in that space."

Identifying your wants and training you in ‘the ask’

“Once you are clear about what you want, we can help identify what farms are out there and do that door knocking and train you a little bit on how to have those conversations in a way that doesn't offend the farmer, but make those conversations happen in a way that is good for everyone. You've got to be out there asking, you've got to be in the market.

Cultivator is focused on getting your plan written and picking a farm, helping you figure out how to write about yourself, showing you can make money, showing your passion and you're why.”

Advisors and passion

Bert Glover from Impact Ag is one of Cultivate’s advisors and he deals with millions and millions of dollars but he's always saying ‘what is your passion?’ Yes. He is dealing with money but the ‘why’ is key. We will help focus your pitch in this direction.

We will also work on your confidence. If you aren't confident to go to an investor or that accountant who you know has five investors with 10 million dollars sitting there, if you're not confident in yourself that you can make money and know-how to make it work then it's going to be very awkward and a slow sort of discussion and you'll never get a follow-up and so we're saying write your pitch get confident. We can help and then and then the last three sessions of Cultivator are really about pumping you up to go have you asked someone get out there and test it go talk to the accountant the lawyer, that person you know you've known for years who actually might have millions of dollars sitting in their bank, having that conversation saying ‘hey I'm doing Cultivator it's about developing a pitch… just want to get your advice and slowly opportunities start to uncover.

Cultivator works

Take Melanie who's part of Cultivator 3, taking place now, she's near Dale's Footway in Victoria and there's a lot of people who've moved out there from Melbourne who are quite wealthy and she's been out there talking and opportunities are coming to her just because she started pitching and having that confidence. Cultivate works.

Not just coaching, but networks

Adam again:

“The level of expertise we bring on this program just blows me away, honestly - there's no one in the farming or regenerative space particularly around the world now we can't get to within one phone call. I've got a lot of contacts in Europe in the States, projects in China. We've got stuff all over the place we're all connected and that's part of the benefit of being part of this programme.”

“It’s the ecosystem to join -  that's important in business to have not just the business coaching group but also a network you can get to the right people to do your marketing, the right people who do your books, the right people who know investors. That all support your efforts and shortens the gap between an idea and its implementation – that’s the ‘secret sauce’ of Cultivator which no one sort of realizes until they’re in there.”

The objective  - no regrets 

You come out with a farm investment or some other sort of outcome. 

“Many have met up in share farming arrangements already in some of the current Cultivate group. Two or three that are ready to go and got investors we've raised half of one investment this week with 1.4 million dollars, committed to a farm and we're going out now to find the other half of the investment. The last thing you want to live with is regret - if farm ownership's on your radar this programme is a great way to figure out for sure if it's the right thing for you or not. Either way, there'll be no regrets.”

What time do we need to dedicate? 

Current Cultivate cohort Andrew answered “2.5 hours a week on sitting in front of the computer with the group and then I would suggest at least three to four hours a week just working through the homework from the previous session. I then spent probably about half an hour or so a week chatting with some other folks in the group on Facebook just touching base and bouncing stuff back and forth. 

In summary .. you only need to try to scrounge up an hour, maybe three or four nights a week tops.”

Andrew again “It’s not like homework actually. It’s quite enjoyable, I was inspired to go out and do it. I have been looking to do this for 10 years and life got in the way and now we're in a position where we can.”

Adam concludes :

“We are supercharged to find ways to help you get you going and we believe in this program so I encourage you to sign up. 

We are recruiting investors right now  - but ultimately it's about having conversations that you know would otherwise feel completely intimidated by, or wouldn't be able to have a year ago. After the programme, you turn up as a business person. Not only a farmer.

Invest in yourself we have a few spots left, we are aiming for 20 people in this Cultivator, 20 high functioning highly motivated people who are doing great work on the land. I look forward to working with you.”