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What is Farm Management Education?

by: Blaine Carey, Program Director & Instructor

As an instructor with the South Dakota Center for Farm/Ranch Business Management program, I am frequently asked that question. It usually takes several minutes to explain my duties, as they encompass many different areas. The most confusing fact seems to be that the program is designed around one-on-one instruction and tailored to meet the needs of all types of farming operations.

Even though our instructors are employed by Mitchell Technical College, classes are rarely held on campus in Mitchell, but usually take place on-site at our students’ farm or ranch headquarters. Keep in mind that a “student” could be more than one person, as recordkeeping is often a shared duty of multiple people at the farms. Farmers who enroll in our program pay tuition twice a year, much like post-secondary schools running on semester schedules. The full coursework is designed to last six semesters. 

I realize most farming operations have evolved from “shoe box” records, which were tallied up in haste at the end of each year. It is also evident that keeping those records current and accurate is a challenge for many people, as they can be easily distracted by the daily demands of production agriculture. However, by working closely together as a team throughout the year, we are able to provide a detailed financial analysis of the business on an annual basis. This information is extremely beneficial in making sound decisions, with the ultimate goal of maintaining a successful farm. 

I believe the best way to summarize farm management education is to explain that we assist ag producers in compiling accurate financial data, then helping them analyze that information.  The program covers a wide range of topics, such as goal setting, cash flows, balance sheets, income statements, risk management and enterprise analysis. It generally takes at least three years to fully implement and realize the benefits of the program. By then, most producers have a much better understanding of the financial aspect of their operations and finish the entire coursework or are comfortable in continuing their own analysis with the practices we have established. So, in a nutshell, farm management education is a unique program, designed to meet the unique needs of each farming operation.

We have recently added more instructors to meet the needs in South Dakota and invite all interested parties to contact us for more information. Please contact us at (605) 350-4132 or visit at or email me at [email protected].


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