Being a Lifelong Learner in Agriculture
We can take a look at where we have been, where we are now, and know that we must be prepared for where we are headed. The speed of change is fast, especially when it comes to agriculture. It is hard to fathom that just 183 years ago, in 1837, John Deere and Leonard Andrus began manufacturing steel plows. Year 1892 was the year the first gasoline tractor was built by John Froelich, and in 1954 the number of tractors on farms exceeded the number of horses and mules for the first time. During the 1970’s, the no-till method was used to decrease soil erosion, and during the mid 2000s, technology was becoming even more precise with auto guidance and field application. (ussec.org)
With such a vast change in agriculture over the last 200 years, the importance of lifelong learning has become a priority. Agri-Food Management Institute conducted a survey and the results rated lifelong learning at the top of the list of management practices that have the most impact on the success of the farm business. Farmers must continually adapt to management and production technologies to stay competitive and sustain their businesses. Knowledge of today’s innovation in agriculture is crucial for farms that want to increase their profitability, diversify, specialize, or even change a farm’s size.
The University of Minnesota’s Center for Farm Financial Management has provided some interesting data and research concerning education as it relates to financial performance. Seventy-five percent of producers who attended financially oriented courses or seminars were in the top 20% of profitability. The top 20% of profitable producers are also more likely to attend cost-of-production and budgeting meetings and courses in business planning and succession planning. (Dr. M. David Kohl, Ag Globe Trotter, January 17, 2020).
The importance of lifelong learning in agriculture is evident and continues to be shown as the best way to increase your operation’s success. So where do you go to find learning opportunities? Doing a quick search on the internet can leave you running in circles and you may be wondering how to find the time to fit it in. Luckily, with current technologies and a wide range of resources, attending educational opportunities is becoming easier and more convenient than ever.
Learning can happen whenever and wherever you need to be! Continued education can come in the form of face-to-face events, online webinars, articles and blogs, and even podcasts. Face to face opportunities can be found locally, regionally, and nationwide. Face-to-face opportunities will also provide the chance to network with others interested in the same topics. Live webinars are often recorded and made available afterward and to anyone interested. Agricultural associations tend to have the option to sign up to receive their newsletter or blog posts. Podcast popularity is on the rise and are both live and recorded with numerous options available for agricultural interests. Find what type of learning opportunity fits your schedule and learning style and make it a priority to attend.
To get you started, we wanted to mention a few places you can begin your search.
- You can contact your local county Extension office to inquire about their upcoming workshops. You may even want to contact Extension offices in surrounding counties to see what they may be offering. Animal Science or Agricultural Extension Agents can provide you with information on statewide event opportunities as well.
- Visit your local Farm Bureau office for scheduled local events, or visit the American Farm Bureau Federation’s website (www.fb.org). They have business development support in the area of business plans, strategic planning and feasibility studies. You can also access their recorded podcasts from Farmside Chat and Newsline (www.fb.org/podcast).
- Farm Credit Knowledge Center provides resources for beginning and established farmers, educational resources, videos, blog posts, calendar of upcoming events, and much more.
- USDA Farmers.gov provides farmers, ranchers, private foresters, and agricultural producers with online self-service applications, educational materials, engagement opportunities, and business tools to increase efficiency and productivity.
- New and Beginning Farmer & Rancher Program training for minorities, U.S. Military Veterans & socially disadvantaged. They offer education, outreach, hands-on experiential learning, and training and technical assistance.
- Have a specific question you need answered? You can “Ask an Expert” at www.ask.extension.org. Ask an Expert offers one-to-one expert answers from Cooperative Extension/University staff and volunteers within participating Land-Grant institutions from across the United States.
Engaging in learning opportunities can enhance the development of skills necessary to continue your operation’s success. If you cannot find what you are looking for or need assistance with determining where you should begin, please reach out to the Knowledge Center team at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can help you determine where you should start your lifelong learning and will work to find opportunities specific to your needs. Taking the time to invest in your ability to succeed is one of the most important business decisions you will make. You may not see the return right away, but years down the road, you will realize it was worth it.