A few months ago I sent in my eighty dollars to Penn State to enroll in their online Beginner Farmer Course. The nine unit lesson is broken up by different farming categories which you can take in order or break up as you need with no time limits on completion. There's a general overview of farming, fruit or vegetable farming, farm implements and safety and others.
I finished my first course a few weeks ago. Wow.
At first, while I was reading the materials I wasn't sure if it was going to work for me. The reading material is based on Agriculture in Pennsylvania, of which I am ridiculously far from. But the lesson worksheet had nothing to do with PA. It focused on my soil, my region, my farm.
I was asked to question my little five acre's land formations, soil content and farm viability. What and how would I sell my products to become an in-the-black farm? What are long term goals as well as starting out ventures? What is biosecurity and how is it applicable to my farming procedures?
I sent in my worksheet via email to the instructor who got back to me faster than I expected. He asked further questions, requesting I elaborate on points I made in my answers. Probing me to dive further into the land I already own and my visions for it. He was patient and informative, giving me more resources to look at and leaving me with an open invitation to ask more questions.
It was wonderful and eye-opening and only the first of nine lessons. Thinking about that bare five acres in real ways is molding the vision into something that just might be. There is so much I don't know about managing a successful income sustaining farm, or even a hobby farm. Hell, I've never even held a chicken before. Having to take an indepth, hard look at what I really have to work with and want to accomplish makes having these dreams that much closer to reality even if I don't get to pet the livestock.
There are a couple other courses through Cornell that start up after the growing season is over in late September that I'll be looking into. They're more expensive but learning is just about all I can do right now. I'm greedy for information. I heard a funny quote once that has stuck with me, though I can't site the source:
"Read, read, read. Learn all you can about the animals you want to keep. And then remember, they didn't read the same books."