Overview of Course
2012 BFRP Class
A few, like Harry Smith who recently moved to Oklahoma from upstate New York, grew up on farms, but left for other careers. Others, like Loyal Plumb of Tahlequah, grew up "around" relatives' farms, but never had their own ag enterprise. Others have no farming background at all.
Ready or not, most have already taken the plunge. Catherine Bruce of Norman has a farm "in the middle of town" where she grows a lot of tomatoes. Others run livestock on bigger acreages. All, however, feel the need for more training.
"I'm looking forward to the time with our experts here," said Jennie Lillard of Wetumka. "I'm very excited."
The Baker family of Baker Heritage Farms in Howe is busily preparing for their first year of vegetable production after growing a test plot last year while Don Baker attended the beginning farmer class.
Kerr Center is “a blessing to small farmers and ranchers trying to get started,” he says.
Jim Horne said that he and Kerr staff are inspired by “the goals and dreams” of the new agriculturists.
“Your enthusiasm is very contagious and we just love to help people that are
The focus of the first training session of 2013 was business planning, which is essential to the success of any agricultural enterprise. Ag economist and Kerr Center Director of Ranch Operations David Redhage presented information on "Planning for Success."
Other Kerr Center staff on hand for the workshop were: Cattle Manager Will Lathrop and Horticulture Manager George Kuepper, who introduced their programs to the group. Business Manager Liz Speake, Communications Director Maura McDermott, Kerr Ranch Foreman Simon Billy, and Administrative Assistant Hannah Daniels were also in attendance. Lunch was catered by Cakes’N’More in Poteau.
Representatives from partnering organizations included June Marshall of MFSI, Mike Everett of OFRA, and Ronnie Gardisser of RSA. Everett explained the principles of "whole farm planning" to the group.
In the fall of 2011, the center and its partners received a grant from the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program to conduct training programs.
The Kerr Center was one of just 36 organizations in the country to receive this grant funding. The center has a long history of providing education to farmers and ranchers.
Students choose either a horticulture or livestock track. Everyone receives instruction in business planning and natural resource management. Trainees receive scholarships that cover tuition and materials.
The classes are a mix of classroom instruction and time in the field with a focus on real-life problem solving and hands-on skills. The center also provides extensive resources for students to study on their own time. Course materials are available free to the public here on the Kerr Center website.
Jim Horne, who recently marked his 40th year with the center, remarked on the changes he has seen over the years, from large numbers leaving agriculture to people coming back, often as a second career. He also noted the value of getting "back to basics" in these uncertain times.
The need for new farmers is great. When she announced the 2011 grant recipients, Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said that now is a critical time to train the next generation of American producers.
“American agriculture supports one in twelve jobs in America,” she said. “But our farmers are aging, and more of our young people are looking outside of farming for their careers.”
To follow the progress of the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers and for more information on Kerr Center programs visit www.kerrcenter.com. Applications for next year’s class will be available later this year.