U.P. web series offers information for beginning farmers

Crystal Nutt

The Michigan State University Extension Project (MSUE) of Alger County presented its fourth webinar of the U.P. 2013 Beginning Farmers Webinar series on Wednesday, Feb. 27.

The series consists of five workshops that teach people about the different aspects of farming in the Upper Peninsula. It is also a good way to introduce college students to what local farming is and the benefits from it. All of the webinars can be accessed at events.anr.msu.edu along with other information about community projects.

The fourth webinar “Getting Started with Field Grown Vegetables” was hosted by county extension director Hal Hudson, Alger County extension director Jim Isleib and MSUE agriculture and farm management educator Warren Schauer.

According to Isleib, this is the second year MSUE has produced a webinar series in the U.P. The previous year, there were three webinars after people expressed interest in learning more about local farming and it was well received, said Isleib, and more small farms are popping up with a growing interest.

“This year’s series is a lot more focused,” Isleib said.

The lectures are centered on farming for beginners, or those who would like to learn more about it.  The first three were: “Getting Started with Grazing,” “Getting Started with Grass-Fed Beef” and “Getting Started with Crops and Hay.”

“Our target audience is for people who have an interest in farming[…]it’s a good way to explore farming,” Isleib said.

Each webinar costs $15, according to Isleib. Past webinars can also be accessed, but still must be registered for. High-speed Internet is necessary to view the webinars and there are locations throughout the U.P. that offer group viewing sites, said Isleib. One of these is at the Marquette Food Co-op.

Having these lectures over the Internet saves on travel and money and people can participate at home, Hudson said.

“We started experimenting with the U.P. and we think we can expand with the rest of the state,” Hudson said.

Isleib said the webinars are presented as PowerPoints, but the audience can communicate through chat. The use of a chat function allows the audience to stay engaged and to be able to ask questions, Isleib said. PDF files can also be downloaded for later use.

“Our goal is to provide information and to educate people that are interested in farming,” Hudson said.

This fourth video centered on the basics of growing field vegetables and the economics of farming. There is information on soil, equipment, irrigation, vegetable selection and crop selection in the lecture, according to Hudson.

While it may seem early to be offering this type of information, Isleib and Hudson both assured it’s necessary. Winter is usually when farmers have the most free time, Hudson said. The rest of the year, farmers are working, he said.

On average, there has been an audience of 20 to 25 people at each webinar, said Isleib. He stated that he would like larger audiences, and would like to aim for at least 50 people at the webinars.

There will be one more webinar shown on Wednesday, March 20 called “Getting Started with Hoop Houses,” according to the MSUE website. There will also be additional webinars beginning in March, said Isleib.

For those interested in farming, registration for the U.P. 2013 Beginning Farmers Webinar Series is available at events.anr.msu.edu/upbegfarmer2013.