Art of farming
FVTC offers ag course
By Holly Neumann
Fox Valley Technical College gives area students an opportunity to learn about farming and agriculture.
The course is offered through the Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers course.
Art Richardson, a local farmer, was instrumental in bringing the class to Waupaca High School.
“My grandson is interested in one day taking over my farm,” said Richardson. “We came to the high school to see if we could get it started. Then talked with Jeremy Hanson over at Fox Valley, as they are the ones that teach the program.”
Richardson, along with his grandson Mason Winter, who is a senior at Waupaca High School, take the course together.
“This is the first class that has been offered at a high school level,” said Richardson. “It gives young farmers a better view of what farming is all about and what types of farming that there is out there.”
From beef farming to dairy farming, goat farming and even milking sheep, the class covers it all.
“The school is a three-part course with three, six-week blocks designed to offer new business start-up, business plan development, and management guidance and instruction as a mentor-style training experience that targets pasture-based farm management,” said Chris Jossart, Media Relations Manager at Fox Valley Tech. “The program builds in articulated credits toward FVTC’s Farm Business & Production Management, Farm Operation, or any one of the college’s six other Ag-based academic offerings.”
This course started in the Mid-1990’s as a UW Madison only course within the Center for Integrated Agriculture Systems and the Farm and Industry Short Course spearheaded by Dr. Richard Cates.
“About 10 years ago, Fox Valley Technical College took part in being a Distance Ed site, which has been facilitated by one of the Farm Business and Production Management Instructors,” said Jeremy Hanson, farm business and production management instructor at Fox Valley Technical College. “The facilitator has a vital role in being the local instructor and point of contact for this program, answering questions and providing individual instruction when needed in developing the student’s business plan.”
Hanson went on to say that this individual instruction can include a site visit or two to their farm or business depending on their needs.
“What is great about this course is the diversity of the speakers,” he said. “Each week there are two presentations, one from an industry expert such as from the University, USDA, or other professional, and the second from a producer, many times a graduate of this course. The story that is told each week is priceless if you are to consider a new business startup.”
Unique to this program is that it is pasture-based or based on specialty ag systems such as Organic, dairy goats, sheep and grazers.
“This is an economical, achievable way for the beginning farmer to enter the field and be profitable,” Hanson said. “The other great thing about this course is the partnership with UW Madison. It would be very difficult to reproduce this quality of instruction and be as effective.”
The course is taught three, six-week blocks designed to offer new business start-up, business plan development and management guidance and instruction as a mentor-style training experience that targets pasture-based farm management.
“Term one exposes the students to diverse businesses such as dairy, beef, goats, sheep, organic, etc,” said Hanson. “The story is how these businesses got to where they are now.”
Specialized information is presented by the industry experts on grazing, marketing and infrastructure requirements for these businesses.
“Term two focuses on putting the student’s ideas about their business on paper and making sure it is feasible,” he continued.
Instruction on lending, financial record keeping, marketing strategies, risk management and of course the lessons learned by actual businesses makes this a very important part of business start-up.
Hanson went on the say that term three focuses on how farmers will manage their own business.
“Instruction consists of low-cost milking parlor designs, advanced topics like organic herd health, pasture soil and nutrient management, emerging value-added businesses like grass fed, meat products, honey and natural resource management,” he said.
“There is a whole world of information out there,” added Richardson. “If you can tap into it, it’s there. There are guys out there doing it a whole lot easier and a whole lot simpler. That is what we have to learn.”
This year alone seven Waupaca High School students are participating in the program.
“This is the first time that a High School has been involved in this course,” said Hanson. “The requirements for the Waupaca High School students were that they were a junior or senior, members of FFA, in good standing academically, and referred by their Ag teachers. Because of their participation, it has increased enrollment in this course compared to other years,”
“I love farming,” said Mason Winter. “I love every part of it, including the hard work.”
He went on to say that it is nice that he and his grandfather are taking the class together.
“I am intending on taking over his farm at some point,” he said. “So it is nice to hear the topics and to be able to talk things over with him once class is done.”
Hanson noted that this is a great collaboration with the University of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Technical College System and other partners including Waupaca High School.
“This course is more than an on-line course. It is broadcast from Madison via Blackboard Collaborate, giving two way interaction with Madison and the sites,” said Hanson. This is a great use of technology.”
Tuition assistance for the program was made possible through a donation from Rollie and Sue Stephenson.