Would-be farmers trying to work their way into production agriculture often fail simply because they don’t know where to find information and attempt to start an enterprise that’s either not adapted to available resources or they do not know proper techniques to produce and market their products.
Scientists with the Noble foundation in Ardmore, Oklahoma, are trying to bridge that information gap, say livestock specialist Hugh Aljoe and Robert Wells.
The two discussed a new Noble Foundation initiative, Basic Ag, a program that will provide newcomers to farm enterprises a source for basic information on a variety of farm enterprises during a Basic Ag field day recently in McKinney, Texas.
A Basic Ag website soon will be operational. “This program is tailored to help new farmers and small landowners,” Wells said.
Success often depends on the resource available and the enterprise selected, Aljoe said. “Location is a key.” So is market savvy. “It’s difficult to anticipate trends unless a producer has already defined a niche. Basic Ag addresses that dilemma. It helps landowners decide on enterprise mixes.”
He said some consider fruit and vegetable production, perhaps organic agriculture, or livestock and wildlife. “Some just want to break even, but just that goal takes a lot of discipline.”
Wells said landowners interested in starting a livestock operation should look first at the land’s capacity to nurture animals. The resource, he said, should dictate whether the producer selects cattle, horses, goats or other species.
“Consider if the forage will be native or improved pasture. Also consider if wildlife will be part of the mix. That’s a potential with 50 to 100 acres. We try to help landowners find the best fit and the best approach for a specific resource.”
Aljoe said Noble specialists work with “a lot of educated folks who want information but don’t know where to look.” They refer them to their own scientists and economists as well as to agencies such as the Extension Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, State Departments of Agriculture and State Wildlife Departments.
They also help them find meetings, such as the Basic Ag field day, where they provided information on various livestock topics. They also mentioned Beef Quality Assurance training programs.
They said newcomers to livestock production must learn about vaccinations, working and handling animals and how to purchase and sell. Aljoe said the Basic Ag website will include “education modules” to help landowners learn the basics of crop production and livestock husbandry.
“It shows how to process calves in the spring,” he said. “It also shows fall chores and a lot of how-tos for livestock production.”
“Videos will help,” Wells said. “Participants get to see how certain practices are performed.”
They said the first chore for any newcomer to agriculture is to evaluate resources—land, soil, water, location—and determine the enterprise option.
“Some land is better suited for crops and some is best for livestock,” Aljoe said.
Basic Ag helps them know the difference.
For more than five decades, the Noble Foundation has provided no-cost consultation to agricultural producers in 47 counties in Oklahoma and Texas.