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  • Start process now for CASS application

    Farm businesses are ever-changing. Today's business reality is that new skills need to be learned to expand your horizons and keep up with the demands of the marketplace.

    Canadian Agricultural Skills Services (CASS) provides advice and funding to farmers interested in learning new skills. The funding deadline is a few months away so it's important to start the process now.

    Farmers understand first-hand the need to keep their skills up to date. The Pfeffer farm is an example of an operation working to keep pace. The Pfeffers produce grain and oil seed crops and raise ostrich-like rheas. Mary Pfeffer also takes courses funded by CASS which range from writing, leadership development and health and wellness, to business planning workshops.

    CASS is specifically geared to farmers. More than 900 farmers and spouses have already benefited from funding that has enabled them to take courses on everything from welding to cheese-making. Other learning opportunities include programs on environmental management, food safety and food quality, and new product and market development. Some farmers have used the program to upgrade their farm management or technical skills. One enterprising farmer applied her new skills to operate a bakery and catering service from the farm using some of her home-grown produce.

    Despite challenges in the beef industry, a beef farmer in New Liskeard is optimistic about the future after attending two courses with CASS support. He now looks at his farm production in a new light, eager to market his product in a new way.

    One farm spouse took accounting training funded by CASS and is putting her new skills to use on and off the farm. She manages their farm's accounting and works part-time off the farm. The training makes it possible to save accounting fees while adding to the household income. She feels good about herself and appreciates the off-farm experience and networking.

    Depending on a farm family's net income, a farmer or spouse can receive up to $16,000 through CASS. It doesn't matter if a farmer is just getting started or is established. You can choose to learn a brand new skill or take courses that will help you turn your farm's raw product into something new for a value-added market.

    This might be your busy season, but there is no better time than now to start planning how to increase your farm revenue through new skills and training.

    The place to start is with CON*NECT, a network of college education and training facilities, and partner in the CASS program. When you apply for funding a skills assessment advisor is assigned to you. That advisor helps you plan your training.

    Take a few minutes to find out more about CASS. The cut-off date for funded training through CASS is January 31st, 2009. If you participated in the Canadian Farm Family Options Program the deadline is November 20, 2008. Everything you need to know, right down to the application form is available at www.ontario.ca/cass. A toll-free phone number puts you in touch with the CON*NECT CASS Centre. Call 1-877-830-0200 and ask for a skills assessment advisor and how to get started.

    CASS is funded through a federal-provincial Agricultural Policy Framework to position Canada as the world leader in food safety, innovation and environmentally responsible agriculture production.

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    Eastern Ontario AgriNews is published on the third Monday of each month. The printed version is distributed free by postal mail to farms in Eastern Ontario, Canada.

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