UI Online Course for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Starts Nov. 12

Friday, November 1 2013

MOSCOW, Idaho – The interest and opportunities for small and mid-sized family farms selling their products directly to local markets aregreater than ever. Consumer demand for locally and organically produced foods is high, and farmers’ market locations and sales are increasing yearly.

An 8-week online course starting Nov. 12 will help beginning farmers and ranchers, or those new to sustainable farming approaches, determine if a direct-to-market agricultural enterprise will work for them.

Course instructor Cinda Williams, a University of Idaho Extension educator based in Moscow, has taught a version of this course since 2001. “The course gives students a broad overview of production and marketing options for today's small farms,” Williams said.

“Participants learn the process of matching their goals and resources to determine what is feasible,” she added. “An essential part of the class is the network developed between classmates and with established sustainable farmers.”

"Sustainable Small Farming and Ranching" course webinars are scheduled Tuesday evenings from 4-6 p.m. Pacific/ 5-7 pm Mountain Nov. 12 to Jan. 21, with breaks over the holidays.

Colette DePhelps, who will manage the interactive coursewebsite and webinars, said “There is an increasing need for online education for farmers and ranchers who lead busy lives and are unable to attend evening or weekend classes and workshops. This online course has been specially designed to serve these producers."

Sustainable Small Farming and Ranching guides participants to realistically evaluate their goals and resources, and provides the tools to evaluate the feasibility of starting a sustainable small acreage enterprise.

Course topics include whole farm planning, resource evaluation, site appropriate production practices, enterprise budgets, market analysis, and risk management and food safety assessment.

Upon course completion, project participants will have a draft of a whole farm plan and the knowledge and skills to complete and implement it. Course webinar presenters include successful local producers and university specialists with expertise in direct marketing, value-added processing, production planning, and more.

Tuesday, Nov. 5, is the deadline for priority enrollment by Idaho, eastern Oregon and eastern Washington residents. After that enrollment will be open to all.

The cost of the course is $50, reduced from $195 throughfinancial support from the Western Center for Risk Management. The course is also supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The course fee includes a comprehensive set of educational materials, access to the course website, discussion forum and webinar participation.

This course is part of the Cultivating Success Small Farm Education Program, a collaboration of University of Idaho, Washington StateUniversity and the non-profit group Rural Roots. For more information aboutCultivating Success, visit www.cultivatingsuccess.org

For more information on course requirements and how to register: http://www.ruralroots.org/programs/susfarming.asp