Three classes have been added to Hinds Community College’s Agriculture Department curriculum for Fall 2015.
The classes, offered only on the Raymond Campus, are Animal Science Technology – Beef Option, Animal Science Technology – Poultry Option and Precision Agriculture.
Each expands opportunities for hands-on learning and should sync seamlessly for prospective students from heavy agricultural areas, said Wayne Boshart, Agribusiness Technology instructor.
“The Agriculture Department places a heavy emphasis on hands-on learning,” Boshart said. “Having access to the Hinds Community College Bull Test Station and college farm, managed by Kenny Banes, allows our students to have hands-on experiences with judging live animal confirmation, as well as, herd health and forage and pasture management. Dr. Roger Jones, the Agriculture Department chairman, teaches a Soil Science course that allows students to collect, analyze, and interpret soil sample analysis, which is crucial to the effective production of forages and agronomic crops.”
Poultry and beef industry officials and observers welcome the additions to the curriculum on several levels.
“The addition of these classes at Hinds Community College will provide opportunities for students to gain the applicable knowledge and skills necessary for a career in agriculture,” state Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith said.
A study released in May by Purdue University ranks Agriculture degrees among three top expected demands in the job market. The industry is Mississippi’s largest, employing 29 percent of the state’s workforce.
“I applaud the leadership and foresight of Hinds in leading the way in academic preparedness to matching job market demands,” Hyde-Smith said. “These students are the future of agriculture, and they can use the skills gained in these programs to help feed and clothe the growing population.”
Andy Berry, executive vice president of the Mississippi Cattlemen’s Association, believes careers in agriculture, especially beef production, are on the upswing.
“The average age of a cattle farmer is in the early 60s. We have a growing world population, but we have a shrinking population in agriculture. Those two factors, along with historically high beef prices, make it very attractive for me to encourage young adults to become involved in beef production,” Berry said. “Currently, there’s not a better time to be involved in agriculture, specifically beef production.”
Poultry is Mississippi’s largest income-producing agricultural commodity, with a direct impact in more than half of the state’s 82 counties and a production value of more than $2.5 billion, according to the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
“These new Agriculture programs take a unique approach to instruction by using industry driven curriculums that included industry partners at the table leading their development,” said Dr. Chad Stocks, vice president of Workforce Development and Coordination of Career/Technical Education and associate dean of Career and Technical Education for the Raymond Campus. “The classes are hands-on, with field trips to local farms and related agriculture businesses.”
Mississippi-based egg producer Cal-Maine, the nation’s largest producer and marketer of shell eggs, helped form the curriculum and is offering paid internships to students who complete the program, Stocks said.
“Poultry companies in Mississippi continue to search for talented students who are interested in a long-term career of providing nutritious poultry product to consumers,” Cal-Maine chief operating officer Sherman Miller said. “I believe that the poultry industry will benefit greatly by the caliber of students that will graduate from the poultry option class. Cal-Maine Foods is excited to be a part of this program, and we believe that Hinds will help introduce local talent into a career path that will last a lifetime.”
Precision Agriculture gathers an array of technological advances to create topographic maps to help farmers and farm families to decide what to plant and where, irrigation strategies, pest control and more. Technicians in the field will install, operate, troubleshoot and repair precision agriculture systems such as GPS (Global Positioning Systems) and GIS (Geographical Information Systems). Students completing a certificate or degree program in Precision Ag will be more competent in their own farm operations or obtain positions such as Precision Ag Technicians (implement dealers), Crop Specialists, Nutrient Management Specialists, Precision Ag Department Managers, Precision Agronomists, and Precision Farming Coordinators.
“Technicians will also use the advanced processing software to collect, visualize, and analyze data that has been collected by the use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) known to most of us as drones,” Stocks said.
In April, Hinds and Mississippi State University signed a unique agreement to enhance the program at each institution. At Hinds, two separate degree options are available this fall. One, the Associate of Applied Science degree in the emerging field, allows students to go directly into the workforce. A second option, an Associate of Arts degree, will allow students to transfer to MSU with 60 hours of community college coursework toward a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Engineering Technology and Business with a concentration in Precision Agriculture.
For more information on the new classes or on the Agriculture Department, contact Melissa Washburn at 601-857-3334 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.