UMaine Business Students Consult Maine Artisan Dairy Sector

For business students, there are few things better than putting your knowledge to the test in a real-world business setting. This spring, 10 seniors and two juniors at the Maine Business School (MBS) participated in the Sustainable Business Practices Fellowship, a program that connected them with farmers in the Maine Cheese Guild.
 
The program, co-led by Maine Farmland Trust (MFT) and MBS faculty Stephanie Welcomer and Erin Carter, provided valuable accounting, marketing, and management insight for cheesemakers while exposing students to consulting practices in a real-world setting.
 
“There were tangible and intangible learning outcomes,” says Welcomer, professor of management and interim dean of the Honors College at UMaine. “Tangibles were an analysis that would go directly to the cheesemaker regarding pricing, cost structures and the price position in relation to different markets.  For students, intangible outcomes were to gain awareness of agricultural business challenges and opportunities, excitement to work in the agricultural service provider sector, confidence in their skills providing business analysis to small agricultural businesses, and appreciation of the importance of sustainable food systems.”
 
During the semester, students worked within Maine Farmland Trust’s Farming for Wholesale series, a business planning program for local farmers. Alex Fouliard, Farming for Wholesale program manager, coordinated the student activities.
 
“During the program students attended training with FarmSmart Maine and mentoring with MFT, and then were connected with farmers to conduct cost of production and profitability analysis” says Fouliard.
 
Students completed the course with a report detailing their experiences and recommendations for their respective farms. According to Welcomer, many students noted that they gained interpersonal skills in interacting with small businesses. One student, Braden Monteyro, accepted a full-time position as a credit analyst at Farm Credit East, a financial institution that helps agriculture, forestry, and fishery businesses across Maine, as a result of his experience in the fellowship.
 
“Being able to take real life examples and apply what we have learned in my last four years at The University of Maine was a great way to end my undergraduate experience,” says Monteyro. “This fellowship has led me to avenues I did not think that I would initially take, and I can say that without this fellowship, I may never have pursued [this position].”
 
Another student, Brooke Lever, viewed the experience as a top-notch consulting crash course.
 
“I’ve learned more in this last semester than I could have ever imagined,” says Lever. “To say that I feel prepared to move forward producing any form of financial analysis is an understatement. Not only has it forced me to get comfortable with the financial aspect of small business, it has prepared me to look at things holistically, and with a creative lens”