MSU Extension launches new Bilingual Farm Business Management Course

The United States Department of Agriculture’s North Central Extension Risk Management Education Center has awarded MSU Extension funding for an innovative new course that meeds the needs of producers.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s North Central Extension Risk Management Education Center has awarded MSU Extension funding for an innovative new course that meeds the needs of producers.

To meet the farm business management needs of Michigan producers, MSU Extension is launching a bilingual online business class. The development and implementation of the class is supported by the United States Department of Agriculture’s North Central Extension Risk Management Education Center.

Assistant Professor Melissa McKendree in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics at Michigan State University (MSU) will serve as the program’s project director, with Florencia Colella (MSU Extension), Roger Betz (MSU Extension), and Assistant Professor Aaron McKim (Department of Community Sustainability, MSU) acting as co-directors. The goal of the new program will be to train new producers in Michigan, both English and Spanish speaking, in foundational farm business management knowledge.

The impetus for the new business management course comes from a 2020 MSU Extension Farm Business Management Team needs assessment. As noted in the project’s grant proposal, the needs assessment identified an interest among farmers in learning more about, “financial analysis to evaluate profitability and make management decisions, understanding cost of production, evaluating enterprise profitability, and transition planning.” In addition to identifying the needs of farmers the assessment also examined the needs of lenders. According to the assessment, “lenders indicated farm clients needed more accurate/detailed records to make decisions, identify areas of concern, and develop realistic plans.”

McKendree said, “Once we knew what the farmers’ and lenders’ needs were, we were able to draw on our expertise right here at MSU to begin developing a plan to address them. We realized the best place to start would be through a bilingual online course.”

The decision to make the course bilingual was guided by feedback from Latino stakeholders and previous studies which found that for immigrant producers a lack of financial and educational resources can be a barrier to improving farm business management practices.

The new course will include eight distinct modules taught over a six-month period.

Betz said, “The modules will cover a diverse set of topics including financial and human risks, strategic farm management, record keeping and accounting basics, financial statements, business analysis, record keeping methods, enterprise and partial budgets, business succession and how to use your records for management decisions.”

Before the complete course officially launches the program will test the materials with a cohort of three English- and two Spanish-speaking producers.

According to Colella: “By testing the course with a smaller group first, we can better ensure that the educational materials are meeting the needs of producers.”

Reflecting on the overall course, McKendree said, “For me this project really gets to the heart of our land grant mission here at MSU. We’ve listened to the needs of our stakeholders in Michigan and now we are drawing on our expertise and extension capacity to see that those needs are met. I can’t wait to start engaging with farmers through the class.”

The full course is expected to launch in Spring 2022. For more information, please email Melissa McKendree at mckend14@msu.edu.

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