What is farm management education?

Farm Forum

As an instructor with the S.D. Center for Farm/Ranch Business Management program, I get asked that question frequently. It usually takes several minutes to explain my duties as they encompass many different areas. The most confusing fact seems to be that the program is designed around one-on-one instruction and tailored to meet the needs of all types of farming operations.

Even though our instructors are employed by Mitchell Technical Institute, classes are rarely held on campus in Mitchell but usually take place on-site at the farm or ranch headquarters of our students. Keep in mind that “student” could mean more than one person as many farms have more than one person involved with the recordkeeping duties. Farmers that enroll in our program pay tuition twice a year much like post-secondary schools running on semester schedules. The full coursework is designed to last twelve semesters.

I realize most farming operations have evolved from “shoe-box” records which were tallied up in haste at the end of the year. It is also evident that keeping those records current and accurate is a challenge for many people as they can be easily distracted by the daily demands of production agriculture. However, by working closely together as a team throughout the year, we are able to provide a detailed financial analysis of the business on an annual basis. This information is extremely beneficial in making sound decisions with the ultimate goal of maintaining a successful farm.

I believe the best way to summarize farm management education is to explain that we assist ag producers in compiling accurate financial data and then helping them analyze that information. The program covers a wide range of topics such as goal setting, cash flows, balance sheets, income statements, risk management, and enterprise analysis. It generally takes at least three years to fully implement and realize the benefits of the program. By then, most producers have a much better understanding of the financial aspect of their operations and finish the entire coursework or are comfortable in continuing their own analysis with the practices we have established. So, in a nutshell, farm management education is a unique program which is designed to meet the needs of any and all farming operations.

I, along with my fellow instructors, invite all interested parties to contact us for more information. Please contact us at 1-800-684-1969 or visit our website at or email me: