Owners of small farms and ranches will soon have access to Web-based help for managing their land.

Three online courses designed for agricultural novices will be offered by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, beginning Jan. 22, said Rebecca Parker, AgriLife Extension’s Dallas-based regional director of programs in agriculture and natural science.

The courses were organized to meet the demand for information from the growing group of small-acreage landowners, said Parker, who cited the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2002 census of agriculture.

The number of Texas farms with 10 to 49 acres grew by 13 percent between 1997 and 2002, according to the census. By comparison, the number of farms with 2,000 acres or more remained about the same.

The new landowners are often city dwellers who buy rural property for retirement, an alternative source of income or a lifestyle change, Parker said. Unlike traditional farmers and ranchers, the landowners typically have jobs that provide primary sources of income.

“They don’t have an ag background, and they don’t know how to decide what to do with their land,” Parker said. “There’s a whole group that we’re not getting to because they don’t have time for face-to-face educational programs.”

The course subjects were chosen based on the demand from landowners for information about those particular topics, Parker said.

The courses cost $50 each. They are offered on the following dates:

Resource Inventory Jan. 22 – Feb. 22 March 3 – March 31 April 21 – May 19 June 2 – June 30

Beef Cattle Management January 28 – March 7 March 24 – May 2

Pasture Management January 30 – February 29 March 12 – April 18

Landowners should take the Resource Inventory course first, Parker said.

“It answers the question, ‘I’ve got this land, now what do I do with it?’ ” she said. “We consider that the most important course.”

For more information, visit the Small Acreage Landowner Webcourse Web site at http://grovesite.com/TAMU/RI .

AgriLife Extension plans to expand the course offerings to include horse production and rainwater harvesting, Parker said.

Texas Cooperative Extension changed its name to Texas AgriLife Extension Service on Jan. 1. An agency of the Texas A&M University System, local AgriLife Extension programs provide practical information and educational outreach in the four areas of agriculture and natural resources, 4-H and youth development, family and consumer sciences and community economic development.