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.
Molton has taught at Columbia Basin College (CBC) since 2007 and believes it is her job as a teacher to develop students into life-long learners. To achieve this, she strives to create a supportive environment where students are able to ask questions and take risks. Her teaching philosophy is student-centered, emphasizing problem solving and the application of knowledge to real world situations. This philosophy has served her well over the last three years in revitalizing the program at CBC.
In 2004, the CBC Agriculture Program was on the verge of elimination due to declining enrollment. Over the next three years, a new program was developed based on community input and agricultural education standards. In 2007, Kerrin Molton was hired and the new program opened. Because the courses were just being developed, Molton was able to assist in designing new curriculum for each class, creating the courses to correspond with the classes offered at other community colleges and universities. With the alignment of the courses, CBC students can transfer their credits to more than 25 agriculture majors at four different universities. Additionally, in the fall of 2009, CBC was approved to offer an undergraduate degree; the Bachelor of Applied Science in Management. With the new degree, students now have the option of completing their Bachelor’s at CBC instead of transferring to another institution.
Outside of the classroom, students work in the greenhouse and at the CBC farm to gain hands-on experience. They are also able to participate in the Postsecondary Agricultural Student organization while taking agriculture classes. This organization allows students to develop leadership, public speaking and goal-setting skills the gives them the opportunity to work and communicate with community members. For those interested in agribusiness, CBC also has a National Agri-Marketing Association chapter that allows students to develop marketing and public speaking skills.
“Their [Columbia Basin College’s] proven commitment to agriculture education, their continuing efforts to improve and expand the program to meet the needs of the industry, their ongoing goal of building and sustaining relationships with all aspects of the agriculture community, as well as their willingness to try new things has resulted in a program that can be a model for agriculture education programs around the country,” said Thomas Mackay, general manager of AgriNorthwest in Tri-Cities, Wash.
Clyde Ray Spears has been the instructor for the Kiamichi Technology Center Agricultural Business Management Program since 1999. The program serves farmers and ranchers throughout southeastern Oklahoma by helping them achieve their business goals through sound management and organizational practices. Spears teaches a variety of agricultural business classes and seminars in topics relevant to local agriculture producers. He also meets with farmers and ranchers individually, customizing his teaching to meet the challenges presented by their specific operation.
“Clients having a specific need with a limited amount of time to complete a business plan, create cash-flow documents for a loan or complete a grant application are worked with individually,” said Spears. “By starting the process at their level of need and understanding, I can eliminate unnecessary steps or back up if they need extra help with a concept or process.”
In addition to his agriculture business classes and seminars, Spears is also very active with local youth. He serves as a resource for the local FFA chapters, coordinates the Star FFA proficiency award scoring, judges Career Development Event (CDE) contests, and develops record keeping systems for students to use with their Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) programs.
“Mr. Spears spends a great deal of time mentoring, judging and organizing many rural events for the young people of our community,” said John T. Bain, Farm Loan Manager at Farm Service Agency in McAlester, Okla. “Mr. Spears has been and will continue to be a great role model to the kids and people of our community.”
Kevin Butt has been the Assistant Professor of Agriculture at Ellsworth Community College (ECC) since 2004. His teaching philosophy is based on three ideas: students should be provided an interactive, community-based learning experience, students need to learn to analyze theoretical information and apply gained knowledge, and academic and extracurricular involvement must work to develop students’ communication, leadership and citizenship skills. With these goals in mind, Butt has created a program that provides students with theoretical and scientific knowledge in agriculture, while supplying extensive hands-on experiences to apply that knowledge.
There are currently three Associate of Applied Science degrees offered at ECC: Farm Management, Agribusiness, and Agriculture Science Transfer. Each of Butt’s courses require students to be able to use a variety of technology equipment to prepare them for their future careers including advanced computer programs and equipment specific to agriculture. The students also maintain a 133 acre farm near the college campus. To gain additional hands-on experience, all students are required to complete at least one internship, depending on their degree program.
“Kevin is a first rate instructor who cares about student learning and teaching up-to-date standards, and he has demonstrated a proficient ability to teach a variety of hands-on agriculture topics including more than 20 different higher education courses in animal and plant content,” said Dr. Christopher A. Russell, Chief Academic Officer of Ellsworth and Marshalltown Community College. “His work ethic, attention to detail, and his problem-solving capabilities make him an excellent candidate for agricultural honors.”
The Chester County Young Farmers Association approaches its members with several key objectives: present innovative ideas, encourage participation, learn from others, and keep members informed of agricultural issues. These objectives have become reality as members experience what Thomas ‘Kip’ Beam, instructor for the program, refers to as self empowerment.
“Self empowerment, where members have taken ownership of what happens within the local chapter, generates a level of pride and enthusiasm that, in turn, promotes interests and input from all members,” he said.
Members of the Chester County Young Farmers Association play an active role in deciding the types of lessons and activities offered. These include establishing food plots for wildlife, tours of a peach farm, and seeing the production of biofuel. This member-guided program has resulted in development of strong leaders, with members being elected to Young Farmer and Agribusiness Association state office.
“Kip has a very important role in agriculture, in that he is an educator to our children and an advisor to our farming community,” said Amanda Lutz, member of the Chester County Young Farmers Association. “Kip, in my opinion, understands the magnitude of this role and is outstanding.”