No matter what stage your farm is in, business management practices play a crucial role in the success and longevity of your farm. But how do you go about knowing what practices to put in place? And that can be a daunting task, especially after a long day in the fields.
Fortunately, a new program is making it easier for producers to learn key skills to take care of their business, their workers and themselves. Considered the first of its kind in Canada, Foundations in Agricultural Management is a free online certificate course from the University of Guelph. Created in partnership with the RBC Foundation and Farm Credit Canada (FCC), the program aims to give producers the skills and confidence to succeed and grow their agri-food business.
“The idea of the project was to help Canadian producers improve their business management skills and make it a call to action for them to start thinking more systematically and seriously about the issue:” If I want to grow my farming business, how am I going to do that? says John Cranfield, Associate Dean (External Relations) of the Ontario Agricultural College at the University of Guelph.
“This course is about investing in your business, investing in yourself, and taking your agribusiness to the next level.”
And there is clearly a demand for such a program. Just four days after the program launched on January 17, 1,700 people had already signed up.
“The response has been fantastic. We hear from people from Prince Edward Island to British Columbia,” says Cranfield, adding that it was essential for the university and its partners, RBC and FCC, that the course be offered free of charge to all person interested in following him.
Using video modules recorded with instructors from the University of Guelph, the course teaches participants the fundamentals of key business management topics: business planning, finance, human resources, risk management, transitions agriculture, mental health and resilience. The course is self-paced, with participants taking a short quiz before moving on to the next module.
Although mental health may not appear to be an important topic for business management at first glance, Cranfield stresses that it is a fundamental element that should not be overlooked.
“Mental health is a big issue in Canadian agriculture right now. Most producers run family businesses and there is a lot of pressure. They work in very volatile markets, which creates adverse effects on the mental health of farmers,” says Cranfield. “We thought it was so important to include mental health because it recognizes that you need to take care of yourself in addition to the company and the people around you.”
Cranfield says the program’s goal is to reach 50,000 producers. The program is available in English and French four times a year for the next two years. Registration details can be found at www.guelphagriculturalmanagement.com.
– Erin Kelly for the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association.