Online education programs for beginning farmers still available
MSU Extension’s 2014 Beginning Farmer Webinar Series is getting good participation from Michigan, several other states, Ontario and even Australia.
The 2014 Beginning Farmer Webinar Series is a component of Michigan State University Extension’s educational outreach to beginning farmers across the state. The program involves several MSU Extension educators and campus specialists in various departments within the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The online training effort started with three general webinars in winter 2012 organized and conducted by MSU Extension staff in the Upper Peninsula. The programs were meant to provide some basic information for people considering new agricultural enterprises. In 2013, the program expanded to five webinars on more specific topics with 55 participants enrolled in one or more webinars. The decision was made by interested Extension educators to expand the program to include more marketing information and identify new production topics for beginners.
Webinars already held in 2014 included:
- Getting started with soil improvement on your farm (47 registered)
- Getting started with selling to restaurants (18 registered)
- Getting started with organic vegetable pest control (28 registered)
- Getting started with selling to schools and hospitals (16 registered)
- Getting started with selling at farmers markets (31 registered)
- Getting started with hops (151 registered)
These six webinars have attracted a total audience of 244 people who registered and paid ($10 each) for one or more programs. Recordings were made available to those registrants who were not able to attend the “live” webinar programs. These recordings will be made available online later this year. The recorded webinar programs from 2012 and 2013 are currently available. You can find them at the MSU Extension article “Dependable information for beginning farmers – where can it be found?”
While Internet-based educational programs can never replace the hands-on, face-to-face relationship between Extension educators and producers, it certainly can be a productive component in an overall educational program. Many people new to MSU Extension have had their first contact through these webinars. The webinar series organized in winter 2014 are meant to be an open-ended program – that is, educators can use the webinar series structure for additional online programs at any time.
To complete the initial set of 11 webinars, five more are scheduled as follows:
- Getting started with organic field crops, Wednesday, March 12
- Getting started with basic farm business records, Monday, March 24
- Getting started with hoophouses, Wednesday, April 2