March 29, 2001 | By: Haven Miller

Farms are production centers for crops and livestock, but they are also businesses. That means farmers who improve their business skills also improve their ability to succeed.

A program at the University of Kentucky called Management First is teaching farmers and agribusiness professionals the principles they need to make sound management decisions and enjoy their work.

"It's business management training," said Kim Strohmeier, UK Cooperative Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources in Owen County. "This program developed out of programs at Cornell University and Ohio State. It began in Kentucky as dairy management training, but the principles are the same whether it's dairy or tobacco or vegetables, and we're emphasizing the small business aspects."

Strohmeier, along with fellow agents Tim Hendrick of Carroll County and David Hull of Gallatin County, recently hosted a three-day Management First session that emphasized improved communications, better employee relations, and improved organization.

"The organizing part was excellent," said David Mathis, a Shelby County crop insurance salesman. "One of the things I need to work on the most is being better organized."

"It forced me to write down on paper what my farm's mission statement is," said George Heeger who owns a 140-acre farm in Kenton County. "The session gave me some new ideas, and freshened some old ideas I already had in terms of management."

Extension agents have noticed that former participants in the training are reporting positive outcomes.

"We had a dairy farmer in our county who was telling me recently about improved communication," said Hendrick. "He has two sons that help him farm, but they also have other jobs. To stay better connected with each other the three bought walkie talkies and it's made their farming operation more efficient."

"The listening skills of some of our former participants have improved," said Hull. "Farm managers are listening more to their employees, and workers are getting a greater say in what goes on."

In addition to teaching management skills, the program helps participants find more pleasure in their work.

"I found out years ago while conducting technical training that farmers not only wanted to have better skills, but also wanted more satisfaction out of applying those skills," said Jack McAllister, dairy specialist in the UK College of Agriculture. "This management training is an empowerment exercise whereby we want our participants to take these principles, apply them to their own situations, and enjoy what they're doing."


Kim Strohmeier, (502) 484-5703