Learning in the Field
New online agribusiness management program at Kemptville Campus brings the classroom to the farm
BY ANDREW VOWLES
How do you get a farmer to come to school after a long day in the field or barns? Bring the classroom to the farm. That's what U of G's Kemptville Campus is doing with a new online program on the ABCs of agribusiness management.
The new AgriBusiness eCampus will use mostly web-based courses to help farmers and producers upgrade their business skills for competing in an increasingly complex and global market, says Heather Watson, who is co-ordinating the program for Kemptville's Business Development Centre.
Starting this month, students can sign up any time for online short courses. Everything will be available online from registration to discussion groups, even an “e-library” of online articles, tutorials, videos, books and worksheets. E-forums will allow farmers, producers and industry representatives to share information and discuss their experiences.
Both the electronic discussion forum and the resource library will also be available free to other users not signed up for courses.
Until now, farmers have relied on advisers and hit-and-miss Internet searches for business management information. This new program offers a complete package in one place, says Watson.
“Offering opportunities for online learning and information exchange is ideal for farmers and producers. They don't have time to sit in a classroom, and now they won't have to.”
Courses begin this spring in strategic and business planning, succession planning, farm-safety culture, domestic and global marketing, commodity marketing and human resources management.
Watson says students will get “take-away” tools and ideas for, say, developing a farm-safety program or writing a strategic plan.
“It's bringing the business world into farming. Now more than ever, enhanced business management skills and lifelong learning are necessary for farmers and producers to compete in the global agricultural environment.”
The courses were written by agribusiness experts, and organizers expect to add more offerings.
The program was developed by an advisory team with representatives from industry, government, non-governmental organizations and academia. Organizers also consulted with farmers and producers and farm advisers, as well as alumni of both Kemptville and the Ontario Agricultural College.
Watson says the U of G connection is invaluable in selling the program to prospective students.
“Guelph is considered a hub in terms of agriculture in Ontario especially, but also on a national and international scale.”
Farmers and spouses may be eligible for funding to help pay for their courses through the Canadian Agricultural Skills Service Program.
Students can register at www.agribusinessecampus.com or through U of G's Office of Open Learning. For more information, call Watson at 613-258-8773.