Most careers in modern agriculture and related sciences require education beyond secondary school. Outstanding agriscience and agribusiness educational programs beyond the high school level of instruction are more important today than ever before.
Wenatchee Valley College (WVC) currently has a variety of different pathways from which to choose in the agricultural science program, including agribusiness management, horticulture, natural resources, sustainable and organic agriculture, and tree fruit. The tree fruit program is one of the most intensive undergraduate pomology programs in the nation. WVC strives to meet the needs of the surrounding area as evidenced by their Bilingual Orchard Employee Education Program. This program is for Hispanic workers to improve their knowledge of the horticulture industry, computer skills and the English language.
The agricultural science program at WVC is partnering with area high school agricultural programs to recruit new students and collaborate with high school agricultural educators to introduce articulated, career-based agricultural courses. After taking agricultural survey, introductory horticulture, or introduction to natural resources management, students receive both high school and college credit. The Wenatchee Valley College Agricultural Student Association supports FFA by judging FFA leadership contests and hosting an apple identification contest for FFA officers.
“WVC agriculture faculty participates in many high school agriculture and FFA events including judging and leadership activities,” said Terry Peek, vice president of instruction at Wenatchee Valley College. “WVC and North Central Washington high school agriculture teachers have never enjoyed such a supportive relationship. We are all here to help each other and to give our best efforts as we strive to educate young men and women studying agriculture.”
The agriculture business management program at Great Plains Technology Center serves 14 school districts in four counties in southwestern Oklahoma. To meet the needs of each of his students, Murray meets with them regularly on an individual basis. His students typically have a specific need or short amount of time to complete a business project, so the typical classroom lecture style of education doesn’t work. He travels to their farm to get a better idea of their operation, and utilizes current technology like laptops so he has access to record-keeping software on-site, while at the same time introducing his students to the technology.
Murray also holds several seminars that cover a variety of topics including recordkeeping, insurance, estate planning, and liability exposure. One of the benefits of holding seminars is that industry experts and extension specialists are available to speak, so participants gain the knowledge of experts. Over 125 people attended Murray’s Cattle Stocker Conference from counties extending outside of the normal service area. Whether it is through individual consulting on the farm or a seminar, Murray goes above and beyond to ensure that his student is satisfied and has gained the information they need.
“Whether a producer shows an interest in new crops, production methods or technology, I try to hook them up with the appropriate Oklahoma State University Specialist to either get results from a research trial in the area or set up a trial on their farm,” said Murray.
“The service philosophy that we have developed for our ag assistance efforts in this area is to work individually with the operators with the challenges facing them at the moment as well as helping them develop improved long-term management practices,” said Dr. Tom Thomas, deputy superintendent at the Great Plains Technology Center. “Kent continually strives to improve his ability to assist his clients by continuing to increase his knowledge of management practices as well as emerging issues which may impact his clients in the future.”
Pickar, Harper and Bemis believe students learn through engagement of curriculum, so they give students hands-on opportunities that provide service to others. They offer certificate degrees in either animal or crop science as a part of the agribusiness major as well as a landscape horticulture program. Both of the programs at Western Technical College work closely with local businesses, government agencies and schools to provide learning opportunities. Agribusiness students must complete a 288-hour internship and prepare oral and written summaries of over 12 agribusinesses. Students in the landscape horticulture program have designed parks, playgrounds and residential land in the nearby area.
Western Technical College has more than half its enrollment involved in Post Secondary Agricultural Student (PAS) Organization and the Landscape Horticulture Club is active in selling plants to the community and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity.
“The common trait of successful college programs is engagement,” said William Brendel, Western Technical College Dean of Agriculture, Apprenticeship and Technology. “Student engagement, business partnership engagement, and college engagement are all hallmarks of the Agribusiness and Landscape Horticulture programs at Western.”
Kevin Pluimer believes that learning is a life-long process and teaches his adults using hands-on experiences to help them become more engaged in the learning process.
“In this challenging field we must continue to expand our knowledge by becoming involved with community organizations and sharing knowledge with everyone we come in contact with,” said Pluimer.
The Eastbrook Young Farmers are very involved in the community. They park cars and work the concession stand at home football games and collaborate with the local Farm Bureau, Cooperative Extension Service and area businesses to host Kids Farm Adventure, a two-day event for first graders that teaches them about agriculture. Members train local firefighters, police and EMS to better prepare them for agricultural accidents, prepare snack bags for farmers during planting and harvesting seasons and have even organized a benefit dinner and auction for a fellow member’s family, raising $23,000. They host an adult pedal tractor pull at the Van Buren Popcorn Festival that raises scholarship funds and they often tour area dairies and grain operations to learn practices they could incorporate on their own farm.
The Eastbrook Young Farmers Chapter has produced the state association president four of the last five years and has received Star Chapter and Chapter Safety awards for the last eight years.
“The Young Farmers chapter at Eastbrook has become a source of pride in the school system and community,” said Kenneth Yocum, teacher and community member. “They have become cheerleaders for our school district and promote agriculture for this county.”
Jeremy Brooks has taught at Midland High School since 2002 and believes students learn best from each other, using hands on activities to enhance what is being taught on the chalkboard. Since the closing of the local textile mill, the community has changed economically and the Young Farmers chapter has adjusted to fit its needs. There is a lot of emphasis on environmental and natural resource programming in Graniteville, so Brooks offers high school courses in wildlife management and outdoor recreation in the evening to adult students. The enrollment in these courses, along with hunter and boater education, archery and herpetology, is around 10 students annually.
The Midland Valley Young Farmers are responsible for securing guest speakers that they want to hear and share with FFA members. They strive to make their meetings both informational and entertaining by participating in activities like pumpkin carving and trail riding. They give back to the community by providing educational materials at area events, sending care packages to a local injured soldier, selling poinsettias during the holiday season to raise funds for a scholarship.
“The program is definitely a leader in the community,” said Allen Williams, South Carolina Association of Agricultural Educators president. “In addition to its excellent scholastic accomplishments, the program has proven its outstanding ability by hosting many community activities for the local high school and its FFA members.”
Al Wenger has taught at Harrisburg since 2005. His teaching philosophy involves developing a syllabus that integrates decades of personal agribusiness management experience with academic theory so every student is able to connect the classroom with practical applications.
The Agribusiness and Food Systems Management program at HACC not only educates the college students that are enrolled on campus but also reaches out to area businesses and high schools. Learning at this institution stretches past the confines of the college classroom into the practical application of concepts to prepare graduates for management positions. Students have the opportunity to develop marketing plans for area businesses, take store tours, and debate on community issues. Through collaboration with local high schools, Wenger developed an introduction to agriscience course that is available to students at 15 participating schools. The program often hosts FFA competitions, agricultural educator trainings, and regional meetings of the Pennsylvania Association of Agricultural Educators.
“Students at HACC are very interactive and enjoy their participation in the program,” said Gerry Reichard, Northeast Marketing Director for Agrinational Insurance Company. “Mr. Wenger is able to provide a significant service to our local agriculture community but more importantly, offer an essential continuing educational opportunity for post secondary students.”