“Harvest an Opportunity”
Usually this is the time of year that I anticipate the things we need to get ready to make harvest a good experience. What do you write when there is no harvest? Well, this year may be your time to upgrade your skills and learn some things to help you manage your farm, and earn more income.
“Harvesting more cash via CASS” is my take on the new program, the Canadian Agricultural Skills Service (CASS). I’ve heard the official presentations, and basically, if you farm, don’t collect Employment Insurance, and your net family income is less than $45,000 (three-year average) you qualify to apply.
- Elaine, I hated going to school. Okay. So the classroom thing doesn’t appeal to you, but make the application anyway. Some of the learning is non-traditional and gives you the opportunity to challenge technical courses. For example, you may be a great welder, with no papers, you can take a short hands-on 100 hour course and get your certificate. The delivery of the training may be full-time, part-time, formal , informal, distance ed., or web-based.
- I’m too old. In two years you will be two years older regardless of what happens. People of all ages can be life-long learners. Look at all the resiliency you’ve learned coping with drought, frost, and now too much moisture, not to mention BSE. Farm families that pull together to create opportunity for more income have to be flexible and trainable. You are never too old to learn, and you just might surprise yourself!
- I don’t know what I’m good at. The great feature of the CASS program is the prior learning assessment which is a big name for finding out the skills you already have, marketable skills. They will give you a practical concrete idea of what you are suited for, and you will also have a customized, individual learning plan (ILP…the government loves acronyms!).
- I don’t want to move away. The CASS program is designed to be flexible and includes distance learning, and some travel which is covered by the program. You may have to leave Uncle Charlie in charge of the cows for a few days, but it will be manageable. You can still continue to operate your farm business.
- I don’t have enough money. Precisely, this is why the program is so timely for struggling farmers. The funding support of CASS is tiered at $8000, $12,000 or $16,000 maximum for training/education benefits. There are different support levels based on 3 year average family income levels.
- I’m a former PMU producer, so my income is skewed. The program has the ability to look at each situation on a case by case basis. If your income was high due to a payout, and now things are tough, ask about the possibilities!
- I’m just a beginning farmer. Perfect. If you own some farm assets, and have been out of school for at least two years, apply! One young man I know was thrilled to hear about the CASS program as he plans to upgrade with Agri-business at Assiniboine Community College, and he hopes he will qualify.
- Change is hard. Life is tough when financial resources are strained. This learning opportunity may seem like a huge stretch. Hook into the upward spiral way of thinking, and dream of the potential to get the skills you need to make more money on, or off the farm. Counsellors are with you in this program to focus on individual needs and follow-up participation. Their goal is a reasonable, achievable learning plan.
- Someone has to feed the cows! Yes, so CASS provides funding for replacement labour to pay Uncle Charlie to feed the cows for you. Travel, meal allowances, and accommodation away from home, and dependent care needs are also covered.
- Computers aren’t my thing. CASS has some financial support for computer technical support and internet connection. Get over your phobia of computers with people who are cheering for you, and want you to be financially secure with new skills. CASS doesn’t cover the cost of buying a new computer for your courses or any other purchase of capital assets.
- I just want to farm. Great. CASS endorses on-farm business training such as farm business management., accounting, crop production skills, livestock production skills, and food safety skills. They do not provide start up capital for alternative business development.
- I never finished high school. You can get your General Educational Development (GED) academic upgrading. GED training is necessary to qualify for skill training.
- I can’t read. Your learning plan may include literacy/numeracy skill training and employability skills training. Paul Overstreet has a wonderful song of hope called “Billy Can’t Read” where Billy overcomes his handicap, and has a new life!
Enough excuses! I want you to call 1-866-668-2277 in Manitoba or 1-866-452-5558 for Alberta and Saskatchewan to harvest the opportunity of making more money with new skills on your farm. Visit www.agr.gc.ca/renewal and hit the Canadian Agricuture Skill Service Link. Many families have a lousy crop or no crop to harvest this fall. This may be your season to take care of yourself and grow!
Elaine Froese drives the combine near Boissevain Manitoba. She is a life-long learner who coaches families in business to be intentional about change! Elaine also mediates and speaks at conferences.