Former ag agent touts farm business education
April 8, 2014
From wiscnews.com: “Former ag agent touts farm business education” — Randy Zogbaum was preaching to the choir.
It was a familiar choir — the Columbia County Board’s agriculture and land and water conservation committee. Zogbaum had been the agriculture agent for the University of Wisconsin-Extension Columbia County before leaving in late November 2008 to be education director for agriculture, natural resources and renewable energy with the Wisconsin Technical College System.
His message fell on receptive ears: Madison Area Technical College is here to help farmers manage the dollars and cents of agriculture.
“Whether you’re a fresh-market vegetable producer or have a 1,000-cow dairy herd, farming is still a business,” Zogbaum said.
Now an MATC agriculture instructor, Zogbaum came to Columbia County on Monday at the invitation of County Board Chairman Andy Ross to talk about a series of farm business classes — each lasting six weeks and offering 24 hours of instruction — that Zogbaum is helping to put together.
Zogbaum is based in Reedsburg, but he said many of MATC’s satellite campuses, including the one in Portage, are expected to offer the classes.
Some of the topics are:
• Understanding the farm business, mainly for people who are new to farming or who are contemplating launching a career in farming.
• Developing a farm business plan.
• Farm business analysis and decision making.
• Farm enterprise analysis and marketing.
• Long-term farm budgeting and management.
Kurt Calkins, Columbia County’s director of land and water conservation, said he thinks classes like these should include education on farmers’ compliance with state pollution control standards.
They will, Zogbaum said — the classes will show farmers the costs of non-compliance, the losses in profit that can result from using more fertilizer than is needed and the sources of financial assistance for farmers who want to (or have to) undertake a costly pollution-abatement project.
Committee member Mike Weyh, who is a farmer, said he was curious about whether the classes would address the sometimes-daunting process of navigating farm markets and determining when and where to sell farm commodities.
That will be addressed in the more advanced courses, Zogbaum said.
He said the classes can be taken sequentially, or experienced farmers can take only the more advanced classes.
Zogbaum said he would not teach all the classes; in fact, MATC is looking for adjunct instructors for the classes, most of which are expected to start this fall.
But some of the people sitting around the table for the committee’s meeting, he said, could play a role in the instruction. For example, Calkins could share information about cost-sharing programs offered by the state through county land and water conservation departments. And representatives from federal offices like the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency could show farmers how to tap into resources offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The cost would be about $240 per course.
Zogbaum said MATC will put out a brochure sometime in the late summer to announce the classes’ schedule and locations where they will be offered.