Late February and early March is a great time for young farmers and older ones to "bone-up" on new ideas. That's why Cornell University has opened registration for its Spring 2012 Online Courses for Beginning Farmers.
No, you don't have to be a beginning farmer to participate and make your existing farm business even more successful, says Cornell Extension Educator Michelle Podolec. Four online courses will be offered, including a new "Machinery and Equipment" course. Here's what's on the menu:
BF 103: Taking Care of Business: Understanding the Business, Regulatory, and Tax Implications of Your Farm. It's designed to follow BF 101, an introductory-level course for aspiring or beginning and seeking to learn about the commercial, legal and tax implications of farming in New Yorj State. Starts March 2, 2012.
BF 105: Machinery and Equipment: Evaluating What's Right for Your Operation. Many a farm operation has been sunk by "shiny equipment syndrome" – purchasing too much brand new equipment. On the other end of the scale, many new farmers have burned out their bodies by not adequately powering their farms with machinery. This course will help you strike a happy balance, evaluating what equipment you really need for your scale of operation, whether to buy or make other arrangements, and how to keep your equipment running smoothly if you do purchase it. Starts March 5, 2012.
BF 122: Berry Production: Getting Started with Growing and Marketing. If you're exploring the idea of adding berries and bramble fruits to your farm, this course will help you consider all the aspects of this decision, from varieties and site selection all the way through profit potential and marketing. Starts February 28, 2012.
The courses are taught by experienced Cooperative Extension educators, farmers, and other specialists. Courses run 5 to 8 weeks, cost $175, and include both real-time meetings (online webinars) and on-your-own time reading and activities.
Those who successfully complete a course will receive a certificate and are also eligible for Farm Service Agency (FSA) borrower training credit. That can improve your eligibility to receive a low-interest FSA loan, says Podolec.
To learn more about each course, please visit http://nebeginningfarmers.org/online-courses or contact Podolec at firstname.lastname@example.org . From that Cornell site you can learn more about the instructors, see answers to frequently asked questions, read details for each course, and even visit a sample online course.