Workshops help small farmers find success

Washington State University Extension and Spokane Conservation District are offering courses in March to assist small farmers in making good business decisions. Small farms coordinator Pat Munts says the classes will demonstrate better management techniques.
Matthew Weaver

Capital Press

Published on February 25, 2014 10:45AM

Washington State University Extension and Spokane Conservation District host two workshops in March to help small farm operators be successful.

“Making Your Small Farm Profitable” runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 8 at the WSU Spokane County Extension office, located at 222 N. Havana St. in Spokane.

Course topics include reading and creating basic financial statements and basic tax and regulatory guidelines.

“Pasture and Livestock Management” runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 22 at the same location.

Course topics include low stress livestock management, grazing for weed management and paddock and fencing design.

Beth Robinette, director of marketing at the Lazy R Ranch in Cheney, Wash., teaches both classes. 

When animals are involved, in-depth knowledge is necessary to keep an operation profitable, said Pat Munts, small farms coordinator for WSU Spokane County Extension and Spokane Conservation District.

“There are so many small farmers out there who have been doing things the same way for a long time,” Munts said. “Then they find out that maybe if they just took some classes they’d be able to manage their animals better, keep their pastures healthy.”

Many small ranchers keep their animals on the pasture too long, until it’s been beaten down or there is no cover left, Munts said. Then they have the added expense of feeding their animals hay.

Newer farmers may not have an agricultural background, Munts said. Many small farmers don’t keep accurate analyses of their costs and benefits, or their expenses. Business planning helps them use their resources to their maximum capability, she noted.

Even experienced farmers could benefit from the classes, Munts said.

“They may have learned their methodologies from their dad or their neighbor,” she said. “Scientifically, things have changed quite a bit in the last few decades.”

Munts estimates there are about 800 to 1,000 small farmers in northeast Washington.

Munts pointed to efforts to start a producer cooperative in northeast Washington. She’s hearing from more small farmers who are coming in and asking questions that indicate they’ve been doing some studying. There are also discussions about developing a Spokane area processing facility, she said.

Cost is $50 for up to two people from the same farm, or $35 for low-income or beginning farmers. Register at


Spokane Conservation District:

WSU Spokane County Extension:


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