Universities prepare the next generation of farm business managers
Nothing beats real-world experience when it comes to farming, but much can be gained by earning a degree in a related field. Universities are going beyond production agriculture to help students master business and marketing, priming them to be outstanding farmers. Below are a few spotlights.
Iowa State University
Students aiming for a career in production agriculture at ISU have the ultimate laboratory. They are given control of the AgEdS 450 Farm, a 1,500-acre working farm.
Dustin Perry, teaching assistant for the course, says the students who take the class each semester are split into eight committees, ranging from marketing to machinery to public relations. They meet weekly and spend several hours on the farm.
"Students leave the class with critical thinking, decision-making and problem-solving skills," he says. "The class is a good balance between actually operating the farm and managing it."
Greg Vogel, AgEdS 450 Farm operator, says the students choose which crops to grow and livestock to raise, but they must research the value potential of each option.
University of Missouri
Many times, the addition of a new generation leads to a farm’s downfall, says Kevin Moore, ag economics associate professor at the University of Missouri.
Moore is the instructor for MU’s Returning to the Farm course, which helps students address the financial, physical and emotional issues of joining the family farm. Students who take the course analyze the financial side of their home operations. "Students can do deep dives into management decisions such as how much they can afford to pay for land or if they should add a new enterprise."
Then, their families and other business partners attend a week-end workshop where they address estate planning, personality types, current farm outlooks and other important issues. The final component is a written business plan.
University of Nebraska
By the time students reach Larry Van Tassell’s advanced farm and ranch management course, the focus has shifted from economic theories to actual application.
"Our students learn economic and accounting concepts," says Van Tassell, Agricultural Economics department head. "But, they don’t easily connect the dots—that’s what we’re trying to do with this class. We want students to feel comfortable enough with these analytical and management
decision tools to use them on their home operation."
Students in this course develop management plans for their own operations. "It creates a lot of excitement for the students and parents to be able to sit down and generate the numbers needed to make good management decisions," he says.