You might have equipment to service or crops to sell while you wait out winter, but consider using the downtime to try something new. Here are three ideas.

1. Learn a new technology.

Drones, for instance. They offer an increasing array of possibilities for farmers and even fulltime career potential. The University of Nebraska Unmanned Aircraft Innovation Research and Education Center ( offers courses for operating and applying drone technology. Sinclair College ( in Dayton, Ohio, offers not only beginning and advanced drone courses but also a degree program in unmanned aerial systems. Chances are, there’s a drone program in your state.

2. Take an online class.

Spanish language, for instance, is increasingly valuable in agriculture. Kirkwood Community College ( in Iowa offers 24 hours of noncredit online Spanish training for just $125.

Also, JetStream (, an online weather school from The National Weather Service, provides free climatology instruction on topics such as clouds, lightning, remote sensing, Doppler radar and more.

3. Attend a new conference.

Organic enthusiasts call the MOSES Conference (, held each February in LaCrosse, Wis., the can’t-miss meeting of the year.

Also, the North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association ( has several gatherings for direct-to-consumer marketers. It also offers agritourism resources.

— By Gene Johnston