Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Popular Courses for Farmers

MDAR is once again planning to offer two very popular courses for both aspiring and experienced farmers during the coming winter months:

1) Exploring Your Small Farm Dream (Explorer)

The Explorer Program is intended for those who are considering farming as a small and likely part-time business. Its purpose is to help pre-venture, aspiring farmers learn what it will take to start and manage their own profitable agricultural enterprise, and to decide whether this is a path they really want to/can take. Explorer makes use of four guided group sessions, an acclaimed workbook, Instructors experienced in starting ag businesses, and extensive supporting resources. The goal of Explorer is to help you decide whether starting an agricultural business is right for you and, based on that decision, to help you plan practical next steps. It was created to help you articulate the clear vision and goals you will need to guide a new agricultural venture. Explorer meets four times (6-9 PM) over a six week window, usually beginning in January or February.

2) Tilling the Soil of Opportunity (TTS)

This innovative, farmer friendly course focuses on existing agricultural businesses that will benefit from an organized look at their current operation in order to plan for growth and change. Over 240 Massachusetts agricultural enterprises have completed TTS.

The course Instructor guides participants through creation of a business plan to improve decision making on the owner/operator’s farm. MDAR has enhanced the 35 hours of group meetings with additional individualized technical assistance and confidential one-on-one financial planning. The Instructor visits every participant’s farm/ag enterprise at least once during the course.

TTS is facilitated by a nationally certified and experienced Instructor, and is monitored by the Director of the MDAR Agricultural Business Training Program. Our local partner agencies and organizations contribute additional and ongoing regional resources for participants.

Guest speakers are drawn from local farm businesses and service providers to personalize the key concepts of many sessions

After the course ends, selected students receive additional individual technical assistance in topic areas most important to completing a working business plan. Basic costs for this service are included.

The TTS business plan can simplify eligibility for federal, state and local assistance programs

This course qualifies as a "Borrower Training Program" for the USDA Farm Service Agency, and can enhance efforts to secure funds from any lender

TTS meets 10 times (6-9 PM) on a once weekly basis over an 11 week window that begins in January.

***As usual, we locate Explorer and TTS courses according to demand in a region. We have tentative plans to offer a session of each in Amherst and a session of TTS in Southeastern Mass. The sooner you get information and register (see information below), the sooner we can get them scheduled!

3) NEW! In addition, we will be piloting one session (in Amherst) of a new offering for past Explorer graduates who are still working on taking the next steps but are not ready for TTS. We are calling this session Small Farm Planner. It will begin in December and will meet three times over three months, with extensive email interaction between. If you have completed Explorer – here in MA or elsewhere – and are familiar with the workbook for that course, please contact Rick Chandler (see below ASAP!


Rick Chandler

Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources

101 University Drive, Suite C-4

Amherst, MA 01002

Email: rick.chandler@state.ma.us

Phone: 413-548-1905

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