No one knows better than ranchers or farmers how the demands of work can make it difficult to pursue other things — including things like education. There’s no time for studying and note-taking when cows need to be moved and stalls need to be mucked.
However, the importance and value of education remain necessities for those who farm or ranch, whether they wish to gain more knowledge about the complexities of their current work or instead explore a new path. Luckily, there are a variety of flexible ways to pursue continued education and remain working on the land.
Trade or vocational school, online education, and self-taught programs are all great options for continuing your education whilst on the farm, whether you want to remain there or not.
A trade school or vocational school trains students to do very specific jobs, like welding, building, plumbing, medical assisting, or massage therapy. These jobs require a certain set of skills, and many trade school focuses can be applied to farm and ranch life as well as elsewhere.
When your farm equipment breaks, for example, you could learn to weld it back together instead of replacing it. Trade school could also give you the skills to safely construct a new barn or stable, learn good crew management techniques, or even holistically care for livestock.
These schools generally offer flexible schedules, making it easier to balance planting crops and feeding horses with homework and studying than it would be at a regular college or university. In short, trade or vocational school is a great option if you already know what you want to do and you simply want to gain the skills to do it.
Online education is a good choice for people who can’t physically access a trade or vocational school, or whose schedules don’t allow for leaving the farm or ranch. An online education can be extremely valuable, whether you want to study something as specialized as equine naturopathy or something as broad as business basics.
Many colleges and universities offer online degree programs to accommodate students who can’t relocate or who might learn better in an online setting. A student who feels too shy to raise their hand in a class might feel more comfortable making their voice heard through an online discussion forum, for example. Flexibility is the name of the game when all you need is an internet connection to do your work.
Maybe formal education isn’t your thing. Everyone knows that sometimes the best way to learn something new is to teach it to yourself, and sometimes we learn best by doing and by trial and error. Farmers and ranchers know this to be true. You can learn a huge number of things with the help of online resources and some good old-fashioned focus and motivation.
Maybe you want to learn how to better use Microsoft Excel so you can effectively manage a crop rotation, or perhaps you want to learn how to pay employees using QuickBooks. These are all things you can teach yourself by taking tips from experts through resources found online. You can even learn how to check your horses for diseases or how to thoroughly clean and care for tack. The possibilities are endless.
How to Choose the Right College:
With all the options out there, choosing the right school can be an overwhelming process. What type of school do you want to go to? Where? How much will it cost? What are your goals? These are all essential questions to thoroughly think about and answer.
You’ll also want to consider the size of the schools you’re interested in and their student demographics. Do you thrive surrounded by a lot of people, or do you prefer smaller group settings and specialized attention?
Last but not least, be sure to visit the campus. Unless you’re pursuing online work, you’ll absolutely want to visit your potential school before committing in order to get a feel for what it’s like in person. Many a college decision has been made on a gut feeling one has after stepping onto a campus for the first time.
There are many ways to pursue education while working or living on a farm. Trade or vocational schools, online classes, and self-taught learning can all help you uncover your passions and be the best at what you do.
For Maria Sorgie, that passion is equine bodywork. “As I begin, I enter my zone; it’s just me and the horse,” she writes on OfHorse.com. “A very peaceful connection between us—human and equine. It’s here during the healing process that I feel complete. This is where I am me and in love with what I do.”
Hopefully one of these educational options will help you uncover and pursue your passion — on the farm or off.