Hinesburg Farmers Tap Organic Business Growth Tactics

Success Story: Vermont

Bookkeeping Assistance Key to Business Health

vermont-redwagonplantsOver the course of its twenty-year existence, the growers at Red Wagon Plants in Hinesburg have become experts at producing high quality organic plants and vegetables. But as their business evolved, owners knew they needed to focus on more than just agriculture to ensure they could also experience healthy business growth.

“Our business is special because it has grown organically over twenty years,” said Red Wagon Plants owner Julie Rubaud. “We believe in what we do and are known for our high quality standards,” she said, adding that she started the plant business “as a way to augment the income of the vegetable farm in 1996. Since then, the plants eclipsed the vegetables.”

As the plant portion of the business became more integral to the farm’s success, Rubaud came to realize that monitoring budgets, expenses and other overall bookkeeping tasks were proving increasingly important, as well as challenging. The farm, which grows and sells plants at both retail and production locations in Hinesburg, also works with wholesale partners throughout the state.

Rubaud knew she needed help determining which aspects of the business were most successful and why, so she sought the assistance of Vermont Small Business Development Area Advisor and Agricultural Specialist Steve Paddock. The two quickly went to work making sense of the sometimes complicated budgeting and bookkeeping at the farm. 

“I wanted to work with Steve to better understand my finances,” Rubaud said, describing Paddock’s approach to the topic as “patient and instructive.” With Steve’s help, Rubaud said she was able to successfully separate the various activities of the business into their own unique budgets and profit/loss statements, giving her the ability to compare the various departments and see which are the best to invest in. “It’s a seasonal business, it can take a whole year to figure out how to measure each expense and income category,” Rubaud said.

Paddock and Rubaud also spent time using Quickbooks accounting software and Excel to analyze and compare various aspects of the business. Paddock was also able to provide industry numbers to assess the health of Red Wagon Plants. And the effort has clearly paid off.

“Our business saw a 20 percent increase in the year we started to work with Steve,” Rubaud said. “With his help we were able to put together much more accurate budgets and measuring tools that have allowed us to monitor our progress more closely. He has given us valuable information about our industry, and innovative ways to look at our problems. It has been an inspiring and reassuring experience,” she said.

For more information on Red Wagon Plants, check out www.redwagonplants.com, and for more information on VtSBDC check out www.vtsbdc.org.