Annual Farm Business Management banquet held April 4
By Marilyn Anderson
ZUMBROTA – Approximately 200 people attended the Riverland Community College annual Ken-yon/Wanamingo Farm Business Management (FBM) Banquet on Friday evening, April 4, at Stary-Yerka VFW Post 5727 in Zum-brota. The program included comments by the College President Adenuga Atewologun, Ph.D., and Eric Deters, FBM program director for Riverland.
Riverland Community College is a public two-year college with three campuses located in southeastern Minnesota – Albert Lea, Austin, and Owatonna.
The FBM education programs are administered through eight college campuses at 85 different sites across Minnesota. Riverland’s FBM program has eight sites, including Kenyon/Wanamingo. Instructors Rex Quam and Jennifer Smith work with program participants from their office located in Wanamingo. To be eligible for enrollment in Farm Business Management courses a student must be a farm business operator or manager or must secure the consent of the instructor. This personalized program is designed to help working farmers improve business operations.
In addition to FBM staff and administration, the evening’s program was attended by area producers, lenders, and businesses that support or are enrolled in the program.
Overview of FBM
Farm Business Management education programs have been a part of the agriculture education program in Minnesota since 1952. From the early cooperative efforts of the State Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture Education at the University of Minnesota, the program has expanded to serve over 5,000 farm families each year. Programs are currently administered and managed by the Minnesota state colleges and universities system through the technical colleges. Since 1992, FBM education programs have been course/credit based.
The programs are designed to provide education to farm owners and operators to assist students in meeting their business and family goals through the use of quality records and sound business decisions.
Instructors in Minnesota’s FBM education programs deliver the program using a variety of methods, but the primary method is through individualized instruction at the student’s farming business. Instructors meet with the students on a regular basis to evaluate the business and develop individual educational plans.
Quam has been an instructor with the local program since December 2006, and Smith since October 2008. While they may begin seeing five new students each year, some have been in the program since the mid-1970s. Each instructor has approximately 60 students.
When asked who a typical student in the program may be, Smith replied, “We have people picking up analysis information this evening between the ages of 22-80. There is no one thing that says any of them is the typical person.” Quam added that participants receive personalized education. An example of a new student may be someone planning to join the family farm business.
Following dinner and introductions, Dr. Atewologun greeted the students and guests. He holds a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering from the University of Ife (Ile-Ife, Nigeria) and a master’s and a doctorate in agricultural engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He became River-land’s president in July 2013.
The new president explained how he started in agriculture at age 12 in his native Nigeria, but he also loved the sciences. He found how he could pursue both in the area of agricultural engineering. He came to the United States in 1983.
During his slide presentation, Dr. Atewologun highlighted several Riverland statistics. As one college with three campuses, it offers more than 50 career choices. FBM ranks as a top career program area. Nine of the 78 full-time staff are FBM faculty members.
By contrasting the farming practices of Africa and the United States, Atewologun noted, “The U.S. takes care of the rest of the world.” Future changes and enhancements for FBM are being looked at. He closed by encouraging the participants and sponsors to continue to support the program.
2013 agriculture financial review
Eric Deters, FBM program director, shared the 2013 southern Minnesota agriculture financial review. With the net income for the median Minnesota farm publicized a week earlier and farmers already knowing their own specific statistics, there were no great surprises in the details shared.
An annual report released March 27 by Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) and the University of Minnesota Extension revealed net income for the median Minnesota farm was $41,899, down from $189,679 in 2012 and the lowest since 2009. Deters’s report, showing averages from approximately 400 farms from southeast Minnesota were no better, showing a median net farm income of $31,091 and down $145,502 from the previous year.
The decreased income was largely due to three components that hit the local area especially hard: 30 percent reduction in corn prices; 30 percent reduction in acres planted (due to late planting season); and 30 percent reduction in yield (also impacted by the weather).
But Deters also wanted to highlight some bright spots in the report. “Last year wasn’t as bad as you thought!” An example was their management of debt, with the debt to asset ratio the best in the past 20 years.
FBM has an advisory council made up of students in the program and members from the business and financial community. They provide assistance, feedback, and input to the FBM program.
Craig Nord, current chair of the council, recalled that his parents, Charles and Joanne Nord of Goodhue, were involved in some type of local farm business management program since he was a child. When Nord began farming in his late teens and early 20s, he began maintaining his own records. By the 1980s, Nord was enrolled as an independent operator and has seen the program as it has transitioned and transformed over the years.
Some of the key areas where Nord sees the value of the program is business planning and business projects. He said, “It is easy to put numbers in a spreadsheet or use software, but the value is the instructors that understand how to help us...Then, once we get a business model, do we need to apply for a permit? Or for a loan? They help us to be able to communicate or go the next steps.”
On the backside, reports, including the year-end analysis such as that presented at the annual banquet, is important, Nord also explained. After an expansion or practice change, to “see detailed analysis, broke down line by line – why it worked or didn’t work – helps us learn from successes and failures.”
Paul Drackley, also a member of the Advisory Council and Vice President of First Farmers & Merchants Bank, based at the White Rock office, shared his thoughts on the importance of the FBM program, saying, “It’s good for our customers. It helps them stay on top of their records. We have a large customer base of farmers. When they come in, they have a consistent, up-to-date, detailed set of records.” He noted that the program also assists the farmers in preparing for their taxes.
Drackley said the program also benefits the financial institutions and is the reason why the bank in White Rock has been involved with the program for 20 years. As a result of the positives, many of the area banks will assist their customers who participate by contributing a portion of the program’s cost.