Colleges offer

non-credit classes to help students build businesses

By DEAN REA

For the Capital Press

School bells beckon this fall for people interested in sharpening their management skills and in designing a profitable business model for their agricultural enterprise.

After a year of retooling, an agricultural business management program will restart this fall through the Small Business Development Center at Lane Community College in Eugene, Ore., where it originated nearly three decades ago.

Classes also will resume near Salem at Chemeketa Community College where -- since 1970 -- students have enrolled in a similar program designed to help them with such things as bookkeeping, budgeting, taxation, risk management and marketing strategies.

Instructors at both institutions design similar non-credit classes and help students develop a business management plan. Accountants, bankers, lawyers and tax experts are called on to help. Instructors also meet individually with students during the entire year -- often at their farms.

"We try to be everything to everybody," said David Sunderland, who handles instruction at Chemeketa with Phil La Vine. Both men have been instructors there for more than a decade.

"We also look at the bottom line, which is profitability," said Glenn Zollner, the Lane Community College program director.

More than 150 people normally participate in the Chemeketa ag management program annually, and about 60 farms and ranches have been represented in the Lane program.

The retirement of an instructor and other personnel changes contributed to the interruption of classes at Lane Community College, but advising students enrolled in the program has continued, said James Lindly, director of the center.

Zollner, the new ag program instructor, has an Oregon State University degree in agricultural education, spent a year as an agricultural intern in Bangladesh and has experience in agribusiness management and development. He hopes to enroll at least 25 students this fall in Eugene and said he is willing to teach classes in Florence, Roseburg and elsewhere in the southern Willamette Valley.

Classes begin in September at Lane and in October at Chemeketa. The first year costs $499 at Lane and $625 at Chemeketa and decreases starting with the second year. Lane charges $50 for each additional student, but Chemeketa's fee includes everyone associated with a business.

Officials at both institutions say they observe confidentiality and do not share information with any outside person or business. However, the U.S. Small Business Administration, which helps fund the Lane program, may check records to keep the business center accountable.

Carl Koozer, who attended the Lane program for three years during the 1990s, said the program has been especially helpful in setting up financial statements and figuring out the net worth of the family's McKenzie River cattle operations east of Springfield.

"We still use those guidelines," said Koozer, a Lane County Livestock Association board member.

Annette Pershern, who owns and operates River Bend Farm near Pleasant Hill with her husband, Dick, enrolled in the program for three years starting in 1994.

"You can grow stuff, but that doesn't mean you can sell it," she said. She concentrated on learning how to sell produce grown on their 50-acre farm by using social media, participating in the community supported agriculture -- CSA -- program and operating a farm store during the summer.

Learn more

Lane Community College:

541-463-6211 zollnerg@lanecc.edu

Chemeketa:

503-399-5089 or 503-589-7759

agribusiness@chemeketa.edu

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