An extension program focused on local farming that began in Washington and Oregon three years ago is continuing to reach and aid farmers across the country.
 
The Farm and Ranch Survival Kit — created by Susan Kerr of WSU’s Klickitat County Extension; Brian Tuck of Oregon State University’s Wasco County Extension Service; and Oregon livestock producer Cheryl Cosner — began in spring 2005. It consisted of six newsletters and 11 workshops designed to educate local farmers on the financial aspects of the business.
 
Although the program concluded in spring 2006, extension educators from Louisiana State University’s Ag Center are using farm succession materials from the program, and the Wyoming Department of Agriculture included a Farm and Ranch Survival Kit installment in its Estate Planning Handbook for agricultural producers. The course materials also are continuing to be accessed online.
 
“It’s all on the website, and hopefully it has a long shelf life,” Tuck said.
 
National reach
The Farm and Ranch Survival Kit also has received national recognition. The program won the 2007 National Association of County Agriculture Agents’ Search for Excellence in Farm and Ranch Financial Management Award. It was featured in an issue of the Western Center for Risk Management Education (WCRME) newsletter, and on the national “Successful Farming Radio Magazine,” which broadcasts to 1.25 million listeners in 22 Midwestern states.
 
“It has really gotten people talking about the future of their farming and ranching enterprises,” Tuck said.
 

Unique program
The Farm and Ranch Survival Kit was created because attendance at financial education workshops continued to be very low, despite the need for financial education for farm enterprise survival.
 
“The traditional approach wasn’t working,” Kerr said. “People weren’t going because they didn’t want to appear needy or suggest that they were struggling financially.”
 
Thus, Kerr, Tuck and Cosner’s idea for the Farm and Ranch Survival Kit was developed, made possible by a $21,400 grant from the WCRME.
 
“I learned that you can get a needed program developed and funded, even if you at first know nothing about that topic,” Kerr said. “That is why extension is so great.”
 
The program was unique because it used a non-threatening approach centered around production-related topics instead of financial management. It was convenient because the newsletters were delivered to the producers’ homes. Its objective was to increase producer knowledge on key financial topics to promote informed decision making.
 
Collaboration continued
One-hundred-and-sixty-five people from 16 different Northwest counties enrolled in the program.
 
The newsletter topics were business planning, financial planning, interpersonal relations, farm succession planning, tax and insurance planning and marketing. The workshop topics were ranching for profit, farm succession planning, livestock production, partial budgeting, analyzing agricultural investments, evaluating land lease agreements, crop profitability analysis, machinery costs, hay production, direct marketing, winegrape production, vineyard establishment and vineyard management.
 
“A lot of material developed from those programs,” Tuck said. “Now we have a good basis to move forward with other programs.”
 
Through the course of the year it became apparent that the community was in need of additional farm succession education. WSU and OSU extensions partnered again in a farm succession planning program for 2008, funded by a $32,488 grant from the WCRME, with agronomist Diana Roberts, WSU Extension Spokane, as the principal investigator, Kerr said.
 
“We found that we really work well together,” Tuck said. “We managed our resources and created better programs. Together we are more efficient.”
 
“Even though Cougars are way more powerful than Beavers, sometimes Beavers do have something to contribute,” Kerr agreed with a wink.
 
To access the Farm and Ranch Survival Kit materials, visit: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/wasco/smallfarms/RiskManagement.php.