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Short course focused on information for small farms
By Steve Bartels
Ohio Farm News

Butler County has an abundance of small farms where the owners earn their living from off-farm employment. These property owners want to know the answer to many questions about how to make the most out of living on a few acres. I have felt, at times, very inadequate in providing the answers. It seems as if a new property owner needs Agriculture 101 to get the information they have called about. Now that opportunity has come to a location near you.

The Southern Ohio New and Small Farm College nine-week short course will be held in three locations across southern Ohio this winter. This is a not-for-credit offering of the Ohio State University; taught by Extension and other professionals. We, in Butler County, have a location just up the road in Waynesville at the Der Dutchman Restaurant. Other locations are Chillicothe and McConnelsville, Ohio.

The course begins at each location the week of January 16, 2006. The course covers many of the concerns people call about: How do I get started? I just bought 20 acres now I want to make at least enough money to pay the taxes, how do I do that? Goal planning, family matters, business planning, budgeting, and resources management are all considerations in answering those questions.

Where can I get help? What government programs are available to help me? To answer these questions you need to know about the resources available to you like Soil and Water Conservation District, Soil Conservation Service, Ohio Divisions of Wildlife and Forestry, Farm Services Agency, Farm Credit System, Farm Bureau, The Ohio State University Extension. You need to know about programs such as CAUV, CRP, EQIP and others.

How can I best use the natural resources available on my farm? Many farms have special natural resources available such as woodlots or full-blown forest, ponds and wildlife areas. You may want to know how to enhance these to get the most enjoyment and or income from them.

How do I limit my liabilities on my farm? You need to know about invitees, trespass considerations, attractive nuisance, fence laws and insurance. This is an area that can only be taught by an attorney and we have one of the best lined up for you.

How do I get a break on sales tax? What information do I need to provide to my banker to get a loan? How do I get the most out of my farm records? What can I deduct as expense from my income taxes? These questions and more will be addressed at the session on Financial Management and Farm Records.

You will learn about forage production, fruits, vegetables, opportunities in the green industry, cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, rabbits and poultry. Itís obvious with that many topics in two weeks you are not going to learn everything but you will learn enough to help you get started and decide if the enterprise is for you.

How do I market what I have? I really donít want to sell wholesale, how can I sell direct to the customer retail? While itís not always practical to sell retail, there are ways you can market such as cooperatives, direct marketing, community supported farms, and niche markets that help cut out the middleman. Agri-tourism and bed and breakfasts are other marketing tools to sell the farm experience as well as product.

Registration deadline for the course is January 9. To get your syllabus and registration information call us at 513-887-3722 or 513-424-5351, ext. 3722.

Published in the December 7, 2005 issue of Farm World.