June 16, 1999 | By: Mark Eclov
Lexington, KY

A number of farmers in the Midwest found themselves in serious financial stress this past year. Although the situation wasn't as apparent in Kentucky, the state's Cooperative Extension service has decided not to wait until it has to apply "emergency CPR" to dying farm operations.

Instead, the Extension subject matter specialists and county agents are gearing up to practice "preventative medicine" to teach the Commonwealth's farmers how to weather the bad times with a broad-based financial management plan that goes well beyond knowing how to keep a farm ledger.

The effort got underway in early June when 80 county Extension agents representing all primary areas of Extension activities met at the Western Kentucky adult learning center in Bowling Green for a four-day workshop.

The training sessions were conducted by a multi-disciplinary team of state Extension subject matter specialists from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

"I have been training agents for over seven years and this was the most integrated group of agents I have dealt with," noted Steve Issacs, Extension farm management specialist in the UK College of Agriculture. "We had a good split between agriculture, family and consumer science and 4-H agents."

The subject matter encompassed a broad range of inter-related topics such as risk management, establishing a vision and financial plan for the family farm, stress control, farm record keeping, and personal finance planning. The information was geared towards addressing the needs of the entire farm family.

Financial planning is not a new concept. Much of the information has been around for years, but had never been condensed into a well- rounded training package. This new look at farm finances addresses the needs of the entire family.

"We wanted to give the agents a more holistic package of training materials and ideas and begin to approach this type of training from a team approach," said Suzanne Badenhop, workshop trainer and UK Extension specialist in family resource management.

"For instance, we went beyond keeping records and analyzing cash flows and reviewed exercises that get people to talk within their family about what is going on financially and where they may be headed and what may be the right decisions for their particular situation," added Badenhop.

Rod Grusy was one of the thirty agricultural agents in attendance. He saw the workshop as another example of how the Extension service is evolving to meet the needs of a quickly changing farm scene.

"As Agricultural agents, we are evolving from an era where we taught primarily production information to a point where we are now expected to deliver more information on decision making and farm management techniques," said Rod Grusy, Extension agriculture agent from Harden County. "It will make a really big difference in the future livelihood of many farm families."

The County agent training session was the first step in the educational process. An Extension task force is now making plans for the next phase of the educational process that will include additional agent training and designing the system for finding and training the farm families in need of this crucial information.

Anyone feeling the financial strain of farm or family financial troubles is urged to check with their county Extension office for helpful information.


Writer: Mark Eclov Phone (606) 257-7223 meclov@ca.uky.edu

Source: Suzanne Badenhop Phone (606) 257-5631 sbadenho@ca.uky.edu