April 2, 2021

DrKohl_color The Ag Globe Trotter

Dr. Dave M. Kohl

Welcome to the weekly edition of The Ag Globe Trotter by Dr. Dave Kohl.

A recent webinar resulted in an interesting question for the next generation of agriculturalists. Will a college business education be the litmus test for the next generation of farmers and ranchers?

As a retired university educator who has taught over 10,000 students at Virginia Tech and Cornell University, my initial response is no. For an agriculture business, the difference maker in the future for bottom line profits will be a high business IQ. Exposure to business principles and fundamentals could come from 4-H, FFA or other youth leadership programs that have shifted their emphasis to these areas.

Some of the best education can come from vocational and technical schools offering two-year degrees or certificates. These programs are often hands-on, and some have farms or businesses that are managed by the students with oversight from the instructors. Many of the vocational and technical programs will intersperse business, financial and human resource aspects of operating a business into their curriculum.

Of course, well taught undergraduate and graduate programs at universities can provide a leg up in business education. The key in any of these programs is a well-balanced curriculum with engaged and dedicated professors who have an emphasis on teaching.

A balance of business, biology and communication is critical in any educational program. Each of these areas will be utilized in some aspect of farming and ranching, regardless of an individual’s responsibilities or degree of ownership.

It’s also important to gain experience through internships away from the family business. This provides exposure to other ways of doing business and being responsible and accountable to others.

Education does not stop with obtaining a certificate or degree. It’s suggested that lifelong learners attend three to five one- or two-day educational venues per year to stay abreast of information and knowledge in a rapidly changing industry and world.

Any education can be valuable not only from an informational standpoint, but by making people think critically and challenge thoughts and perspectives. Educational programs also provide networking opportunities with peers and industry leaders that are invaluable in the building blocks of successfully operating a business. Educational venues are not one size fits all on the journey of lifelong learning.




Dr. Kohl is Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Finance and Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Dr. Kohl has traveled over 8 million miles throughout his professional career and has conducted more than 6,000 workshops and seminars for agricultural groups such as bankers, Farm Credit, FSA and regulators, as well as producer and agribusiness groups. He has published four books and over 1,300 articles on financial and business-related topics in journals, extension and other popular publications.

© Northwest Farm Credit Services 2021