Fall 2012 registration for Cornell University’s online beginning-farmer courses will begin in mid-August. The non-credited classes are available through the university’s Northeast Beginning Farmers Project, which is housed at the Cornell Small Farms Program and funded by the USDA Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program and a grant from the New York Farm Viability Institute.
The online classes, covering a variety of agricultural subjects from organic certification to farm-business development, are applicable to both new and experienced farmers across the U.S. It is not necessary to be a Cornell student to enroll. Each course lasts an average of five to seven weeks and costs $200 to enroll. Participants will receive instruction from experienced educators and farmers, attend weekly webinars, participate in discussion forums with other students and experienced farmers, and be equipped with readings, resources and assignments.
No special software is necessary to complete the online coursework, but coordinators of the project recommend that students have access to a DSL or cable modem connection. In past courses, students who have not had access to this technology at home have been able to complete the courses from a public-library computer.
The online course format offers farmers the flexibility to work at their own paces and at times convenient to their schedules. Past students have reported spending an average of three to six hours per course. A list of upcoming courses are as follows:
- BF 101: Square One—Building a Farm that Matches Your Values, Goals, Skills and Resources
- BF 102: Markets and Profits—Exploring the Feasibility of Your Farming Ideas (designed to follow BF 101)
- BF 103: Taking Care of Business—Understanding the Business, Regulatory and Tax Implications of Your Farm
- BF 104: Financial Records—Setting up Systems to Track Your Profitability
- BF 105: Machinery and Equipment—Evaluating What’s Right for Your Operation
- BF 106: Organic Certification—What, How and Why (or Why Not)
- BF 110: Soil Health—Investing in the Vitality of Your Farm
- BF 120: Veggie Farming—From Planning to Planting
- BF 121: Veggie Farming 2—From Season-Long Care to Market
- BF 122: Berry Production—Getting Started with Growing and Marketing
- BF 130: Pastured Poultry—Profiting from Layers, Broilers, Turkeys and Ducks
- BF 201: Making Money—Pricing, Positioning in the Market and Guerrilla Marketing
- BF 202: Planning to Stay in Business: Writing Your Business Plan
Find descriptions of these courses, including the appropriate target audience, course objective and course outline, on the NEBF website. Check for announcements about open registration dates on the website or on the NEBF Facebook page.
In addition to online courses, NEBF offers a variety of free tutorials and resources as part of its New Farmer Hub as well as farm-related events throughout the year.