For this episode of Perennial AF, I joined forces with another podcast, also about perennial agriculture and also based in Madison, Wisconsin. The Cutting Edge Podcast is put out by the UW Madison Division of Extension Emerging Crops Program. They have over 40 episodes looking at different emerging crops for the upper Midwest. I joined Stefan Mirsky, one of the hosts of The Cutting Edge Podcast, to talk with Paul Dietmann, Senior Lending Officer of Mission Financing at Compeer Financial, about the financial side of working with emerging perennial crops.

Paul spent 11 years working for University extension in Wisconsin, and served for five years as the director of the Bureau of Farm and Rural Services at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture. He now works for Compeer Financial, a member owned farm credit cooperative based in the Upper Midwest.

Paul has worked with countless farmers and landowners over the years to help them find ways to finance new crops or emerging practices like agroforestry. And about ten years ago, he and some of his colleagues put together what they had learned into a book called Fearless Farm Finances: Farm Financial Management Demystified. Stephan and I started off our conversation with Paul by asking him about the book.

Paul Dietmann, Senior Lending Officer of Mission Financing at Compeer Financial.

Paul Dietmann, Senior Lending Officer of Mission Financing at Compeer Financial. PHOTO: Compeer Financial


Jacob Grace: One of the ways that people may have encountered you is that you’ve coauthored a book called Fearless Farm Finances, which is now around ten-years old, and I know there have been a couple different editions of it. Would you like to say a little bit about how that came together and what some of the things were that you changed in the in the updated version?

Paul Dietmann: The impetus behind the book: I was I was serving on the board of MOSES (Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service), which is now become Marbleseed and at the at the annual conference, the annual Organic Farming Conference, which is one of the biggest organic farmer conferences in the country. They have a bookstore and they sell a lot of books. I think I was on the board at the time… it was probably $40,000 or $50,000 worth of books they would sell during the course of a three-day conference. We had a board retreat shortly after the conference – one year we were talking about the bookstore and talking about the fact that there were really very few books about farm business management and even the ones that that were out there. It was a handful like maybe two or three is about all that were out there, and they only got about as deep as enterprise budgeting.

So a couple of us on the board and Jody Padam, who was the finance director and MOSES at the time, started talking about how we really need a publication or a book that covers every aspect of farm financial management from balance sheets, income statements, cash flows, investment analysis, record keeping, pretty much anything that any topic you can think of that pertains to farm financial management should be in one reference material. And that’s really what what led to us writing the book.

We got a grant from the USDA Beginning Farmer Rancher Development Program to write the first edition of Fearless Farm Finances, which, as you said, Jacob came out probably ten years ago. We we rewrote the book and came out with a second edition. That was maybe five years ago or so. We’ve talked a lot of workshops based on the content of the book. I don’t even know how many copies it sold at this point, but it’s it’s really been widely accepted, which I’m happy about.

We tried to write it in a way that it was technically accurate, that it followed the recommendations of the Farm Financial Standards Council, which is an organization that came out of the farm crisis in the eighties. It was an attempt to get lenders, accountants, and farm financial educators all on the same page, and agree on a set of standards that we that everyone follows: to look at balance sheets; analyze ratios; look at cash flows and income statements, all those sorts of things. So we wrote the book in a way that’s technically accurate, that follows the recommendations of our Financial Standards Council, but we wanted to write it in a way that it didn’t look like a textbook and didn’t feel like a textbook, but it was more farmer friendly and that a farmer could pick it up and read it and sort of see themselves in it and figure out easily how they can get a hold of the finances of their farm operation.

Excepted from an interview on Perennial AF and The Cutting Edge Podcast. Listen to the full episode for more.


This one-of-a-kind resource is packed with instructions, tips, and tools for setting up and managing a farm’s financial system. It includes real-life examples from successful farmers and sample data to show how forms and records should look.