Dependable information for beginning farmers – where can it be found?

Research-based information sources are a good place to start.

When beginning farmers have questions, they have lots of places to seek answers: a local Extension educator, an experienced neighbor or family member, a business selling farm supplies, a wholesale purchaser or farm market manager, or maybe even Google. The nation-wide university Extension system is an excellent source of unbiased, research-based information on a wide variety of agricultural topics.

Everything from minimizing soil compaction to selecting adapted pepper varieties can be found online. If you want to limit your search to information from universities and other educational institutions, be sure to add the phrase “” when searching. If you want to ask a question online, try the eXtension “Ask an Expert” function available on the Michigan State University Extension website. Your question will be directed to someone likely to provide a helpful response. Check out the recent article “Finding accurate information on the Internet“ by MSU Extension educator Faith Cullens.

Another option is to seek more formal learning opportunities. Some of these are available as online classes or “webinars.” MSU Extension educators conducted beginning farmer webinars in 2012 and 2013. There were three general webinars offered in 2012 including sessions on farm business basics, animal-based enterprises and plant-based enterprises. You can access the 2012 beginning farmer webinars online.

The five webinars conducted in 2013 included:

MSU Extension is offering the 2014 Beginning Farmer Webinar Series beginning Jan. 20, 2014, including weekly webinars through early April on topics of interest. Separate registrations are available for each event through the MSU ANR Events Management System. Check the events page a few weeks prior to the webinar you wish to attend. High speed Internet is needed and a $10 fee is payable online or by mailing in a registration form and receipt.

MSU Extension 2014 Beginning Farmer Webinar Series
(All webinars begin at 7 p.m. eastern time)

  • Getting Started With Soil Improvement On Your Farm – Monday, Jan. 20, 2014
  • Getting Started With Selling To Restaurants – Monday, Jan. 27, 2014
  • Getting Started With Organic Vegetable Pest Control – Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014
  • Getting Started With Selling To Schools And Hospitals – Monday, Feb. 10, 2014
  • Getting Started With Selling At Farmers Markets – Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014
  • Getting Started With Hops – Monday, Feb. 24, 2014
  • Getting Started With CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) – Monday, March 3, 2014
  • Getting Started With Organic Field Crops – Wednesday, March 12
  • Getting Started With Expanded Vegetable Production – Wednesday, March 19
  • Getting Started With Basic Business Records – Monday, March 24
  • Getting Started With Hoophouses – Date to be announced

Additional webinars will be offered later in 2014.

Contact Jim Isleib, MSU Extension Educator, at with any questions.

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