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Basic AG: Foundational Knowledge for New Producers

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Jane Edwards sat in the corner of the Sanger High School lecture hall scribbling notes as fast as her pen would move. While Edwards is not a high school student, she is learning fundamental information.

"Knowledge is power," said the 61-year-old retired kindergarten teacher, "and I certainly want all the knowledge I can get."

On a cool April evening, Edwards and more than 60 other agricultural producers - some new, some experienced - attended one of the Noble Research Institute's new Basic AG Spring Management Seminars.

The Noble Research Institute's Basic AG series is an educational program designed to benefit those new to agriculture. The events provide practical, foundational knowledge that can be used in everyday operations.

Basic AG offers straightforward information and interactive experience to give participants new understanding and tools to achieve specific agriculture-related goals. While Basic AG is targeted to new farmers and ranchers, the events have value to both novice and experienced producers.

"There are more and more people like me," Edwards explained. "They've worked their entire lives in the city, and now they want to own a piece of land. Most of us do not have a farming background."

As for Edwards, she had owned 26 acres of land in Denton County since 1985, but never truly delved into agriculture until she purchased her dream getaway - a rolling 215-acre spread in Clay County - in 2002.

Edwards, who had spent her career providing foundational education for thousands of kindergarteners, suddenly found herself in need of basic agricultural know-how. She found the Noble Research Institute about five years ago and has attended several events since. With the launch of Basic AG, Edwards discovered a set of seminars, workshops and field days specifically tailored for individuals like her.

During the Sanger, Texas, seminar, Edwards picked up tips on fertilizer rates and grazing management. "These seminars always have information relevant to this region," Edwards said. "People think they can find the right information online, but most of the time they find something that might apply to Nebraska or Mississippi. These seminars boil everything down to usable information focused on Oklahoma and Texas."

Across the room, another set of Basic Ag attendees were also finding some insightful tidbits. Tom and Christa Bolin are in the beginning stages of entering the stocker cattle business. Tom, who worked for the United States Postal Service, has an agricultural heritage as his father and grandfather were both farmers. "Christa grew up in El Paso, so these seminars are providing information she's never had before," he said. "I'm getting some real training as well. Not only is the information good, but we've learned about some new resources."

For some, the events serve as a valuable refresher course. Ron and Becky Bivens are beginning to assist in the management of their family's property near Silverton, Texas, a half section of sprawling prairie with 150 acres planted in wheat.

While the couple both grew up in agriculture, Ron worked for AT&T until recently retiring and returning to his roots. He found that the industry has changed significantly. "Having access to the Noble Research Institute is an unbelievable advantage, especially when you haven't done any of this in 40 years," Becky Bivens said. "We like how Noble offers a comprehensive approach to agriculture. Like tonight, we heard about pasture fertilization and stocking rates, and a lot of that information we can use right away."

Launched in 2010, the Noble Research Institute's Basic AG program has already hosted a handful of events in Oklahoma and Texas. In addition to featuring Noble Research Institute agricultural consultants and researchers, many Basic AG events will include other national and regional experts, such as speakers from Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, Texas AgriLife Extension and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).

The Noble Research Institute's next Basic AG event will be the two-day Basic AG Cattle School on May 11 and 12, 2010, at the Noble Research Institute's Ardmore campus. For additional information, visit the Basic AG Web site at www.noble.org/basicag.