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Formal education in agriculture doesn't mean success

Many young people take the college route, while others decide to go a different direction for education at vocational schools, community colleges, or the good old-fashioned school of hard knocks. A case in point was displayed by a young man at a recent young and beginning producer conference in the Midwest. He had decided not to go to college, but was a believer in lifelong learning and education, which was one of the main reasons he attended the two-day conference.

What was so impressive was that he applied his learning and education. First, when the discussion came up about renting farm ground and negotiating with landlords, his analysis had already been completed. In his renting case, his cost of production was approximately $680 per acre, and with a 200 bushel per acre corn yield, this represented about a $3.40 breakeven price. Ground that he owned cost $408 per acre, equating to about $2.40 per bushel breakeven price. He further explained that he had forward priced 60% of his corn at $4.65 per bushel, which represents strong net income after debt service. He had a similar analysis for a soybean yield of 50 bushels per acre that resulted in a breakeven price of $11.00 per bushel on rented land and $7.00 per bushel on owned land.

This young man then shared with me a schedule of educational events he was attending to improve his lifelong learning that he can apply to the school of hard knocks. How often do students pay for an expensive education and then come out of school not being able to apply the breakeven principle to business or to a household? Experiential-based education will be a wave of the future, both inside and outside of degree-based programs. Too often young people attend a university for the degree rather than the education, which can be a waste of money and time. As a professor, I am not disputing the value of an education; however, some of the most motivated lifelong learners are outside a degree program and they often make very successful entrepreneurs.

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