Colleges provide continuing ed for ag producers

November 4, 2013

From fdlreporter.com: “Continuing education a must for Ag producers” — More and more, producers are seeking training to stay knowledgeable in the ever-evolving landscape that is the agriculture industry.

Lakeshore and Moraine Park Technical Colleges have been providing continuing education for adult agricultural producers for nearly 40 years. The Farm Business and Production Management Program provides training to emerging managers and seasoned producers in five different areas of continuing education.

A mainstay in Wisconsin agriculture, the program supports Wisconsin’s largest industry — agriculture. Each year, one of five individual courses is offered. The focus this fall/winter will include transferring the farm assets and management to the next generation, interpersonal skills, employee management and creating a safe farm working environment. The new program starts in late October and runs through the end of June 2014.

The Farm Safety section has been added to the course offering for this year. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor, recently began dairy farm inspections in Wisconsin. Our goal in teaching farm safety is to assist producers to make sure their farms are safe places to work and see that the dairy would pass an OSHA inspection.

As farms in eastern Wisconsin have grown so have the number of employees on these operations. When I started my career as a dairy herdsman in western Pennsylvania, farm employment was one of the least desirable jobs. Today, the work is not nearly as long and physical as it once was.

In fact, these positions are extremely complex and require professional staff with computer skills, mechanical ability, an understanding of livestock physiology, skills with people management, and a full understanding of business management.

In the future, opportunities in agriculture will certainly attract some of the best minds. These jobs range from $30,000 to over $75,000 per year. How many jobs in eastern Wisconsin pay in that range? Our youth will not have to leave their homes to seek great employment opportunities outside of the state.

Participants in the programs range in age from 18 to the late 50s with an average age of 30. Both men and women participate. Enrolling students are employees on large dairies, many are the sons and daughters of the owners of their businesses, some are from Hispanic backgrounds and some are agriculture business professionals. The average size dairy operation of those participating in the program is just over 300 cows and 500 acres.

Because the program is delivered in a variety of methods, participants tend to stay involved for many years. With the rapid change in technology, continuing education becomes a must if an agricultural company is to remain viable from one generation to another. The discussion groups meet at several venues in rural communities.

Farm tours are also part of the way the program is conducted. The classroom sessions are discussion-based and focus on the challenges faced on today’s farms. Classes meet 10 times through the winter months or about every other week at the Boltonville Fire Station, Regional DRR office in Plymouth, Moraine Park Campus in Fond du Lac and the Pizza Ranch in Waupun. The class time is a combination of lecture, discussion, problem solving and application of what has been delivered.

Enrolled students also can attend the cutting-edge seminar series. The Progressive Operators series include daylong seminars held at Lakeshore Technical College and are sponsored by the LTC Farm Business Program and the eastern Wisconsin Extension Service. The 2014 program will be titled “Would you work for you?”

Topics for the Dec. 6 program include business place culture, delegation, empowerment, the importance of standardizing procedures and employee training. Also on the first day, an immigration attorney will share the latest information related to congressional legislation and work visas. The Jan. 31 program will entertain human resource issues such as motivating, retaining and facilitating good communication in your business.

Greg Booher is a Farm Business & Production Management instructor at Lakeshore Technical College working in many counties in eastcentral Wisconsin. Contact him at (920) 960-0551 or emailhim at greg.booher@gotoltc.edu.

 

 

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