The Michigan State University Extension Beginning Farmer Webinar Series began as an Upper Peninsula regional program. Three webinars reaching 30 individuals were offered in winter 2012 to provide extended accessibility to information delivered through a set of four face-to-face beginning farmer educational meetings offered in two Upper Peninsula locations. Nearly all webinar participants were Upper Peninsula residents.
Based on the success of the webinars, a series of five MSU Extension Upper Peninsula Beginning Farmer Program webinars were developed and offered in January through March, 2013, reaching 62 people throughout Michigan. In 2014, 12 webinars taught by 13 MSU Extension educators, one retired educator and four other MSU collaborators were included in the series, with 311 people registering for a total of 455 webinar views. Topics included soil improvement; selling to restaurants, schools and hospitals; organic vegetable pest control; CSA farming; organic field crops; basic farm business records; hoophouses; expanding vegetable production; hops; and plasticulture in vegetable production. You can access all 2012-2014 Beginning Farmer Webinar Series recordings online.
An online Survey Monkey questionnaire was developed and sent to all 311 participants from the 2014 series on Dec. 10, 2014, with email reminders on Dec. 18 and Jan. 1, 2015. Forty-two responses resulted in a response rate of 13.5 percent. While this response rate is low, it nevertheless gives a glimpse into the impact of the program.
Impacts of program
- Out of 40 respondents, 15 (38 percent) indicated the program resulted in or contributed to the creation of a new business.
- Out of 38 responses, 13 (34 percent) indicated the program resulted in or contributed to the expansion of an existing farm business.
- Out of 39 respondents, 7 (18 percent) indicated the program resulted in or contributed to the addition of a new enterprise to an existing farm business.
- Out of 37 respondents, 5 (16 percent) indicated the program resulted in or contributed to the creation of new jobs.
- Out of 37 respondents, 19 (51 percent) indicated the program resulted in or contributed to development of a new feasibility plan (formal or informal) for a farm enterprise.
- Out of 42 respondents, 15 (36 percent) indicated the program resulted in them making more money, ranging from an increase of “less than $100” to “over $5,000.” The median range of increase for these 15 respondents was $101-$500, and the mean range of increase was $501-$1,000.
A new series of Beginning Farmer Webinars is currently open for registration. Visit the 2015 Beginning Farmer Webinar Series Event page for more information and to register.
For a copy of the full 2014 Beginning Farmer Webinar Series evaluation report, or for questions about the 2015 Beginning Farmer Webinar Series, contact Jim Isleib at email@example.com or 906-387-2530.