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Sustainable Agriculture Certificate/Degree Program

Investigators
Millard, James R
Institutions
Craven Community College
Start date
2012
End date
2013
Objective

This project will address the lack of local educational and training opportunities in the field of agricultural science by developing a new Associate in Applied Science degree in Sustainable Agriculture. Craven Community College, located in rural, Eastern North Carolina, serves Craven County where 70% of the land is used as agricultural acreage. There are two high schools within the public school system that have agricultural programs, and by partnering with the public school system, we aim to provide a post-secondary career pathway in agricultural science. The project's objectives are to provide:

1) post-secondary education in sustainable agriculture that will make students competitive in the workforce and provide them with the knowledge base to pursue a bachelor's degree and further in agricultural science or a STEM-related discipline;

2) professional development opportunities for faculty and teachers to bring awareness of local and regional agricultural trends and best practices to the educational system for incorporation into the classroom;

3) hire an agricultural instructor to bring expertise to the curriculum model and interact with faculty in other STEM disciplines and programs; and

4) develop a productive land lab as an educational tool for hands-on instruction and demonstration of innovative agricultural practices.

Additional secondary impacts of this new program in sustainable agriculture will be to:

1) create an awareness of occupations in STEM fields and in sustainable agriculture that are available in Eastern North Carolina;

2) engage in community outreach by allowing students to intern with local farms, while introducing the newest trends in sustainable farming methods; and

3) increase the number of students obtaining certificates and Associate degrees in agricultural science and provide transfer options to universities offering majors in STEM fields.

The new Sustainable Agriculture degree will incorporate critical thinking skills needed to research, develop techniques and successfully manage food systems. The instructional delivery systems will provide extensive hands-on, practical experiences in field work and incorporate the soft skills needed to interact with the public and effectively communicate the benefits of sustainable agricultural methods to a variety of audiences. This project aligns with the College's strategic goals by providing a curriculum that is academically rigorous and provides extensive hands-on experiences in the land lab that will be created on campus. The students will be able to receive fundamentals in the classroom and then apply what they have learned in the land lab and on local farms. Craven Community College has formed alliances with the public school system, local farmers, cooperative extension and community gardens in the area to provide the educational foundation that will address the economic, social and cultural development of our students.

More information

NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY:
Since 1999, North Carolina has lost over 500,000 acres of farmland. The farms that remain are in jeopardy because of the aging farmer population (the average age of NC farmers is 56) and the lack of local educational and training opportunities for students interested in the agricultural field. Craven Community College serves Craven County where currently 70% of the land is used as agricultural acreage. Two high schools in the County have agricultural programs yet there is no local post-secondary pathway for these students. By offering this new Associate degree program in Sustainable Agriculture we hope to provide a seamless post-secondary career pathway in agricultural science that will prepare students to pursue local workforce opportunities, grow or establish new agriculture enterprises in the region, and/or obtain the knowledge base to pursue a bachelor's degree or higher in the agricultural field. The proposed Sustainable Agriculture program will strengthen the College's capacity to meet the needs of a rural population and a largely agricultural-based economy. This project will address the lack of local educational and training opportunities in the field of agricultural science by: 1) developing a Sustainable Agriculture Associate in Applied Science degree and a certificate program that will allow students to enter the workforce or further their education in agriculture and/or other STEM disciplines; 2) providing professional development opportunities for college faculty and high school teachers and by providing college and high school students the opportunity to participate in conferences and scientific meetings; 3) allowing the College to hire a sustainable agriculture instructor with expertise in general agriculture and sustainable techniques to lead this new program; and 4) designing a fully functional land lab with the materials, equipment and supplies needed to support students in the hands-on agricultural practicum. It is expected that the new Sustainable Agriculture program will be a viable career pathway in the agricultural field that will draw prospective students from other counties in the region. The land lab will be an educational tool where community members and students will receive first-hand experience of working farm methods and will learn about traditional crops and high value crop production. The new instructor will interact with faculty in various disciplines and bridge the sustainable agriculture curriculum into the health sciences program and early childhood development to further address childhood obesity. The awareness and education obtained from professional development opportunities and conferences will allow for knowledge to be spread throughout the community and will facilitate the partnership between the college and the public school system to strategically address high priority issues at the local level like food safety, childhood obesity and other NIFA priorities.

APPROACH:
Craven Community College will hire an agricultural instructor that will develop the curriculum and purchase all materials and supplies for the land lab. The instructor will promote the program to the local high schools and meet with the agricultural science teachers to stay abreast of the students' career and curricula needs. Students interested in enrolling in the program will be directed to become admitted to the college and advised on the courses for which to register in the Sustainable Agriculture curriculum. Once students are enrolled, they will be encouraged to establish a Sustainable Agriculture Student Club with the agricultural instructor as the adviser. The club will participate in community activities and volunteer at the local farmers market. When all items are purchased and the land lab is established, the college campus and surrounding community will be invited to an open house. The event will promote awareness of the new program to the entire county. Promotion of the new program will take place at the New Bern Farmers Market and through newspaper and radio advertisements. Prior to the beginning of each academic year the Sustainable Agriculture Advisory Committee will meet to discuss the year's activities for the college and high school students including volunteer opportunities, outreach activities, professional development, and student conferences. The project director and agriculture instructor will work with the Career and Transfer Coordinator to obtain guest speakers to present on one of the five priority areas (Global Food Security and Hunger, Climate Change, Sustainable Energy, Childhood Obesity, Food Safety) and they will ensure that all areas are addressed in the lecture series during the grant cycle. Agricultural Programs from state schools will be invited to participate in transfer days during the spring semester. The project director will facilitate all events outside the classroom, while the instructor will focus on the curriculum and materials needed to run the program. The key personnel along with the campus Sustainable Agriculture Advisory Committee will meet once a semester. During the spring semester, the committee will review the program evaluations and the project director will report on the findings for the year and compile it in the Annual Performance Report required by NIFA. Formative assessments will occur throughout the project to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the students and the programming so that adjustments can be made to meet the participant's needs. Summative assessments will also be collected and reviewed on a regular basis and programmatic changes will be made as necessary.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
NCW-2012-01132
Accession number
229065
Categories
Food Defense and Integrity
Education and Training
Bacterial Pathogens