Fresno County University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor Mark Freeman hopes he can get the same response to a series of hands-on business classes of farmers where producers could learn some new tricks to keep the banker at bay in these tough times.

UC Cooperative Extension will hold a series of four computer seminars this spring at the UC Center in Fresno, Calif. at 550 E. Shaw Ave.

“People are reluctant to sign up for anything financial unless absolutely force to,” acknowledged Freeman. “Today’s tough economic times may be the force that will get people to the seminars.”

The meetings will be from 6-8 p.m. on four consecutive Tuesdays, April 29 through May 20. Cost for the four sessions is $20 per person or $20 for two people from the same farm. The training takes place in the UC Center President's Room, which is equipped with 36 networked PC computers.

Participants will be trained in computer record keeping for taxes; determining the relative profitability of various operations or inputs, calculating trends for costs and returns, and making production and investment decisions.

The first two sessions demonstrate the use of Microsoft Excel, the last two use Intuit QuickBooks.

"Each of these tools will help farmers increase efficiency and profitability in their farming operations," said Freeman, the UCCE farm advisor coordinating the sessions.

The training seminars also make use UC Cooperative Extension online cost and return studies.

"Since the studies have been used for years by farmers and lenders, many farmers are familiar with them," Freeman said. "We are now converting some of the data tables into spreadsheet format that allows farmers to enter their own data and play 'what if.'"

Each participant will receive a CD with spreadsheet templates and forms.

Following is the seminar schedule:

April 29: Using UC cost and return studies to identify cost savings potentials. Dr. Karen Klonsky, agricultural economist, University of California Davis

May 6: Cash flow budgeting and forecasting made simple. Tim Leach, Senior Vice President, Fresno-Madera Farm Credit

May 13 and May 20: Recordkeeping made simple. Ken Awbrey, Certified Public Accountant, Tamiyasu, Smith, Horn and Braun

For more information contact Mark Freeman at (559) 456-7265, mwfreeman@ucdavis.edu.

Freeman hopes to reach professionals he calls “extenders. These are farm lenders, CPA, consultants and others who have contact with many growers and can spread the word on how these templates and programs can help in record keeping and budgeting for farmers in these tough times,” he said.

e-mail: hcline@primediabusiness.com