Course Logistics and FAQs

General Information

You can utilize the tutorials, videos, worksheets, and information on this website freely. But if you want to “meet” other new farmers and share ideas and helpful resources with each other, and ask questions of experienced ag educators and farmers, you will feel more confident about your planning by taking one of our online courses.

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When can I register for courses?
Registration opens in mid-August for all courses, and remains open until courses either fill up (max. 45 people per course) or are canceled (if they don’t get 24 registrants within one week of the course start date). Please subscribe to our e-newsletter, become a friend on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to make sure you hear announcements about open registration for online courses.
How much do courses cost?
Most courses are $200 each – the specific amount is noted under each course’s description.
Why are the courses so expensive? Do you offer any financial aid or scholarships?
Previous participants have reported that the value they received from the course was worth the price. In some cases, the course material has paid for itself in terms of mistakes avoided or innovations learned.These courses are one of the rare examples of a farmer training program running solely on registration revenue, with no ongoing grant support. We operate the courses on the slimmest possible margin so that we can keep the fees low. We do realize that not everyone feels they can afford the price of our courses, but we just do not have the staff or financial capacity to offer scholarships at this time.
I live (and plan to farm) outside NYS. Are your courses appropriate for me?
Most of our courses are appropriate for a wide geographic range of participants. Please read the Target Audience section in the Course Description for each course you’re interested in. If the course is relevant only to participants in a particular state or region, it will be listed there.
What are the online courses like? What can I expect?
Our courses involve real-time webinars (using WebEx) and use of an online “course headquarters” (using Moodle) for discussions, resource-sharing, and homework between webinars. You will have the ability to interact with your instructor, guest presenters, and fellow students via a chat feature during webinars and via discussion forums in Moodle.
You can expect to network with like-minded fellow learners, hear from farmers and other farming experts in live web sessions, learn about useful resources, and depending on the course, get direct feedback on your farming plans.
Courses are typically about 6 weeks long and take place mostly on your own time in a virtual “campus” called Moodle, an online course management software. Each week, the instructor will make a new lesson–with readings, resources, discussion forums, and assignments–available in Moodle. You can complete the work anytime during the week.
If a live webinar is scheduled for that week, you’ll be given a link to click at a particular time and date. If you cannot make it, a recording of the webinar will be posted in Moodle for you to review later. The webinars are the only part of the course that take place at a particular time and date; otherwise you can work on the course whenever it’s convenient for your schedule. Typically, our online courses require a high degree of self-motivation and ability to work on your own.
What type of internet connection do I need? Does the course require any special software?
We have had people complete the course using a dial-up internet connection, but it severely diminishes the course experience, especially ability to participate in webinars. For this reason, we recommend that you use a computer with a DSL or Cable modem connection, or a mobile device with a fast connection. Satellite connection is also feasible, but has proven to be glitchy and unpredictable for participating in webinars. Lack of high-speed internet at your home doesn’t necessarily preclude participation – we have had participants join the weekly webinar from their local library or from a friend’s home. You do not need any special software for the course, beyond an internet browser (Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome, Opera, AOL, etc) and a small free download you will be prompted to complete in order to access webinars on WebEx. You do need to have functioning speakers for the webinars. Users with different browsers, or different operating systems (Mac vs. Windows) have occasionally experienced issues with opening or using documents presented in the course, but instructors will troubleshoot any issues that arise on a case-by-case basis. You should have a familiarity with the functions of your computer and with browsing the internet. The more comfortable you are with new technology and distance learning, the more you will get out of the course.
Can I get college credit for completing your online courses?
No, we are unable to offer academic credit for our courses.
Can I take more than one online course at a time?
It is possible to take more than one course at a time. If they have webinars on the same night, you can alternate which one you attend live, and later watch the webinar recording for the other course. Otherwise, coursework is conducted on your own time, so you would just have to be especially conscious to budget enough time in your week to do the readings, participate in discussions and complete homework assignments for multiple courses each week.
How many hours a week do I need to spend to keep up with the course?
From prior student feedback, we know that students spend 2-6 hrs. a week on a course, with the average being about 3. If you are less experienced with online learning, and/or less experienced with farming, expect to spend 6 or more hours per week to participate fully. Planning courses, especially BF 202: Planning to Stay in Business and BF 203: Holistic Financial Planning, definitely require at least 6 hours each week because you will be writing your own business plan and financial plan and these courses keep an intense pace. As with any learning experience, the more you are able to put into reading, thinking, and applying this material to your own farm plans, the more you will get out of the course!
Will the class always be on the same day of the week?
The webinars are the only “real-time” part of the course, and they are always offered on the same night within a course (generally 6:30 or 7pm on a given weeknight). The instructor should give you a schedule of webinars at the beginning of the course so you know in advance when they will be. If you miss one, they are usually (barring technical difficulties) recorded for later viewing. But the bulk of the course consists of an online “campus” in Moodle that you can log into anytime, to read or download resources, communicate with fellow students via discussion forums, and view homework assignments.
What is the start time for webinars? How long do they last?
Webinars are the only times during the course that we aim for all students and instructors to be involved at the same time. These are typically 60-90 minutes long, and are scheduled for weekday evenings at 6:30 or 7pm; check the schedule for your course for specific dates and times. We will make every attempt to record webinars so that if you miss them you can still watch them online. As you think about your time availability for the course, make sure to allow for more than just participation in the webinar. There will also be assignments and readings for you to do, and discussion forums for you to participate in, between the webinars.
If I miss a webinar can I watch it at a later date?
Webinars will be recorded and a link will be posted in Moodle, your online “campus”, each week. Simply click the link and you will be able to watch it. All static course materials and discussion forums from prior weeks will be available at all times throughout the course, so anytime you want to go back and review something you will be able to.
Will there be opportunities to hear from successful farmers?
We usually invite at least two farmers to present about their farm operations and start-up experience during the webinars, so students are exposed to two different farmer perspectives and can directly ask them lots of questions. Where possible, we also incorporate videos of farmers from this website into the course. A few of our instructors are also farmers – check out our Instructor Bios page to learn more about their expertise.
What is the cancellation policy for your courses?
If registration levels are still low 7 days before the scheduled course start date, we will notify all registrants by email and offer the option to transfer registration to a different course OR receive a full refund.
What is the refund policy if I need to cancel my registration?
Please notify Erica as soon as you know that you want to cancel your participation in the course so that we may make your space available to another person. If you are only canceling participation in a single course, we will issue a full refund up to the day before the course starts. Once the course has started, we can refund half of your registration fee within the first 7 days of the course, and after that, refunds are not available. If you are requesting a refund for more than one course, we will issue a full refund for the first one but will retain a $20 processing fee per course after that.
Do you offer scholarships or reduced registrations?
No, we are not able to offer scholarships or sliding scale registration at this time.
I would like to pay for your courses with my AmeriCorps Education Award money, or with GI Bill funds. Is this possible?
Because our courses are offered through Cornell Cooperative Extension and are not accredited college-level courses, they are not eligible for payment with these funds.

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