New agriculture program starting at WCCC

Western Colorado Community College will launch a new agriculture program this fall.

The two-year associate of applied science program will cover a broad spectrum of subjects with classes on crop production, pest management, marketing and soil science. Students who want a more specific or intensive degree will be able to transition from the associate’s level post-graduation to four-year agricultural programs. The community college is working with Colorado State University to make the associate’s degree transfer seamlessly into four-year CSU agriculture programs, according to Brigitte Sundermann, vice president of community college affairs at WCCC.

“With everything we do, we don’t want it to be the end. We always want to give students the next step in their career,” Sundermann said.

The community college formed a 20-person steering committee of local agriculture and natural resource conservation professionals to help shape the associate’s program. Steering Committee member Steve Acquafresca, a farmer and Mesa County commissioner, said committee members want the program to help budding and seasoned agriculture professionals learn new information about business, practices and laws. He also hopes the program helps Mesa County and surrounding areas grow the future generation of farmers, ranchers and growers.

“The average age of the American farmer or rancher is nearly 60. It’s unacceptably high. The supply of qualified, well-prepared, interested people to take over for the retiring generation just isn’t there. This is clearly another role this program can play, teaching interested students the challenges and the realities” of agriculture, Acquafresca said.

Sundermann said demand from the local agriculture community for well-trained farmers and ranchers and interest from local high school students helped drive the decision to create an associate’s program in agriculture. She said the community college wanted to keep the program general so students can feel out where their interests in agriculture lie and so they can learn various aspects of the trade, including economics, math, marketing and laws.

Sundermann said the community college wants to work with Colorado State because it has a renowned agriculture program and Colorado Mesa does not have a four-year program in that field. Colorado State President Tony Frank said during a stop last week in Grand Junction he may be open in the future to a joint program with CMU similar to the mechanical engineering degree partnership between Colorado Mesa and University of Colorado-Boulder, although Frank did not specify which degree program he envisions the schools partnering on.


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