MSU ag chief, Hinds alum wins national award

Posts by tag: agriculture

MSU ag chief, Hinds alum wins national award
Posted by
28 March

MSU ag chief, Hinds alum wins national award

 Note: The following story appears in the spring issue of Hindsight alumni magazine. For more information about the Hinds Alumni Association, see the website. To apply for a Hinds Community College Foundation scholarship, go to the Admissions tab on college web site at or click here.

Dr. George Hopper worked at Anderson Tully lumber company in Vicksburg while he attended Hinds in the years after high school. Quite fittingly, he has been sawing wood in his professional career ever since – and he’s been recognized by his peers for his work.

Dr. George Hopper

This past fall, Hopper won the Excellence in Leadership award for 2017 from the Southern Association of Agricultural Experiment Stations Directors at the Association of Public Land-Grant Universities. Hopper’s directorship of the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station and role as dean of Mississippi State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences formed the basis for his award, presented at the APLU’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Hopper is also dean for the university’s College of Forest Resources and director for its Forest and Wildlife Research Center.

The 16 experiment stations in the state are closely associated with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, which share knowledge and solutions with farmers, business people and government agencies throughout the state and beyond. One station is housed on Hinds’ Raymond Campus, as part of the T.H. Kendall III Agriculture Complex. Another, for cattle, the Gene Morrison Brown Loam Experiment Station, is on the outskirts of town.

“Our role and responsibility is to serve the people of Mississippi,” Hopper said. “Part of that is developing better farming and livestock practices and ways to protect the environment.”

For Hopper, coming to Hinds meant getting to Raymond from the River City when Interstate 20 was barely complete on the western side of the state. He juggled work in the evenings and attended class daily, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“Four or five of us from Vicksburg commuted to class. But, we had great memories and an excellent education, indeed,” he said. “As an administrator, I know what I learned at Hinds means the teachers were good. It got me on the right track. Hinds had a good reputation for science even back then.”

After finishing STEM-related prerequisites at Hinds, he earned his bachelor’s in chemistry from MSU, then moved on to Virginia Tech University where he earned his Ph.D. in plant physiology.

Hopper worked at the University of Tennessee for a time, then went into administration in forestry/wildlife. He moved on to Mississippi State as dean of college of forest resources. Eight years ago, he was asked to head up agriculture in addition to forestry.

Part of his job is getting students involved in research. It is some of Hopper’s and others’ early research in the area of biomass energy that Stephen Dicke, an Extension professor for Forestry, remembers.

“I first met him in 1979,” Dicke said. “We’d be cutting sycamore trees in the hot summer and weighing the stems, all for research. I saw a quick-witted optimist with a real heart. He’s gone above and beyond what’s been asked of him by doing a lot of extra work.”

Hopper credits his Hinds experience for shaping his career and advises students to be unafraid of few challenges in their own lives and studies.

“People are interested in the curious. And that’s what drew me to science in the first place,” he said. “Our society needs the STEM areas and needs leadership in that area. Fundamentally, we need to have clean water and a healthy and safe food supply.”

0 206 28 March, 2018 News more
Ag alum credits department icons for his success
Posted by
28 March

Ag alum credits department icons for his success

 Note: The following story appears in the spring issue of Hindsight alumni magazine. For more information about the Hinds Alumni Association, see the website. To apply for a Hinds Community College Foundation scholarship, go to the Admissions tab on college web site at or click here.

Almost anyone with fond memories of their days as a student at Hinds Community College has a favorite “Hinds story.” Matt Woods is no exception.

Matt Woods

His favorite story involves an apple and what he carried on as a family tradition in English instructor Jenny Muse’s class. It started with his father, Alvin Woods, who walked into Muse’s class “brushing an apple on his shirt, plopped it on her desk and winked at her.”

Matt Woods remembered the story when he started at Hinds the week after he graduated from high school.

“A group of us from south Jackson rode together here for the first day of class. I told the others I’d be a little late, but I’d be there in just a second,” he recalled.

Muse “called roll and got to ‘Matt Woods,’ then said ‘I guess he’s not going to be with us today.’ I opened the door and walked through everybody up to her desk and said, ‘Ms. Muse, I apologize for my tardiness’ while I shined an apple on my shirt. I plopped it on her desk and winked at her.

“She said, ‘You’ve got to be Alvin Woods’ son!’”

Once he got inside the classroom, Woods found success and honed skills learned being around his father’s feed mill. He was a member of the Agriculture Club and the livestock judging team. He credits a handful of people who Woods said were “more than just instructors” to him, including Billie Banes, Drs. Thad Owens, Bill Dixon and Roger Jones. Jones has worked at Hinds since 1970 and still chairs the college’s Agriculture Department. The tutelage helped Woods earn his bachelor’s degree from Mississippi State University, in Agriculture Education.

“They prepared us for college life and the real world,” he said. “And they did it with a caring, yet firm hand.”

Jones remembers seeing signs of success early in Woods’ days as a student.

“Matt was a very conscientious and hardworking student that was always very mature for his age,” Jones said. “I have seen him use skills he had in student organizations at Hinds, along with the knowledge he gained as a student here and at Mississippi State University to become very successful. I am proud of the man he has become.”

Woods worked at his father’s feed mill briefly after college, then returned to Hinds in 1995 to earn an Emergency Medical Technology certificate to bolster his stock as a volunteer firefighter in Learned. In 1998, he took up a job offer from Jackson-based Cal-Maine Foods – the nation’s largest producer and marketer of shell eggs – after mulling becoming a teacher himself. He worked in the central purchasing area for 17 years before becoming chief of the company’s feed mill in 2015.

“The most rewarding part of my job is to look at the eggs we produce and to know those birds were fed through feed mills I’m responsible for,” he said. “It’s also very challenging because we want to be the most wholesome, safest food source there is.”

He has also been a hand-up to some of the best students who’ve graduated from the Agriculture Department in recent years. That includes Christopher McCloud, who manages the company’s feed mill in Watts, Okla., and Austin Van Etten, an assistant manager in Hammond, La. “The students who come through the department here have the skills and knowledge to either step straight into the workforce and be a productive employee, or go on to a university and pursue a bachelor’s degree,” he said.

His Hinds experience has continued beyond his days as a student. As a member of the advisory council for the Agriculture Department, he helped develop the curriculum for the Animal Science Technology, Poultry Option class introduced in 2015.

“If Hinds Community College went further than two years, I’d probably be working on my tenth doctorate degree right now,” he said. “I would never have left. Nothing compared to my time here. It made for an easy transition from being a high school kid to being a college student.”

0 275 28 March, 2018 News more
Hinds CC Agriculture programs on display in expo
Posted by
26 February

Hinds CC Agriculture programs on display in expo

RAYMOND – High school seniors considering careers in agriculture got a sneak peek Feb. 23 at the newest technology shaping careers in various animal sciences.

Dr. Rhonda C. Vann, research professor with Mississippi State University, shows attendees of Ag Expo 2018 how ultrsound can show the potential productivity of cattle. The event was held at the Kendall Agricultural Complex at Hinds Community College Raymond Campus. (Hinds Community College/Tammi Bowles)

Ag Expo 2018 at the Kendall Agricultural Complex at Hinds Community College Raymond Campus showcased those advances in the Animal Science Technology, Precision Agriculture and Veterinary Technology.

Ultrasound equipment showed the probable size and quality of a ribeye cut from the area near a cow’s ribs, all displayed on a computer monitor before students’ eyes.

“We take images to see how much inner muscular fat the animal has so we know he or his offspring will make choice beef,” said Dr. Rhonda C. Vann, research professor with Mississippi State University housed at the Central Mississippi Research and Extension Center where Hinds’ Ag facilities are located.

Gabbi Walters, a senior at Pelahatchie High School, stepped up with classmates for a closeup with the subject cow as she plans a career in Animal and Dairy Sciences.

Gabbi Walters, a senior at Pelahatchie High School, takes a short break during Ag Expo 2018 Feb. 23 at Hinds Community College. (Hinds Community College/Tammi Bowles)

“My grandfather has a farm and I’m active in Rankin County 4-H, so it has shaped my life,” Walter said.

The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, known popularly as drones, is changing the way large-scale farming is done worldwide. Agribusiness Technology Instructor Lee Douglas is ideal for students who might start college, then look to switch to something new and challenging.

“Hinds provides a great way to expose you to different things going on like this,” Douglas said. He also moderated as students took turns driving a farming combine simulator, which provided a high-def virtual view of a field of row crops and broke down stats like fuel efficiency and overall productivity of the crop.

Anna Gill, also a Pelahatchie senior, took the wheel and, virtually, took it for a spin.

“We have cattle farm in my family, beef mostly, so I’m also interested in the programs here,” Gill said.

Agribusiness Instructor Lee Douglas, left, instructs Gabby McCormick, a student at Enterprise Attendance Center, in Brookhaven, as she tries out a farming combine simulator at Ag Expo 2018 Feb. 23 at Hinds Community College Raymond Campus. (Hinds Community College/Tammi Bowles)

Groups of students in agriculture or animal science-related programs at their respective school also toured the Veterinary Technology program, now housed in a larger facility at the ag complex.

Savannah Culpepper, a junior at Rebul Academy, took note of the program’s offerings with interest.

“I like working with animals, and I’d be the first vet in my family,” Culpepper said.

Dr. Lynn Johnson, Veterinary Technology instructor, talks to attendees of Ag Expo 2018 inside the program’s offices at Hinds Community College Raymond Campus. (Hinds Community College/Tammi Bowles)

0 397 26 February, 2018 News more
Hinds CC Agriculture Department to host Sept. 21 reunion, get-together
Posted by
07 September

Hinds CC Agriculture Department to host Sept. 21 reunion, get-together

Hinds Community College opened its doors for the first time in September 1917 with a handful of students and a couple of programs, including agriculture, that were key to Mississippi then and continues to be true today. Hinds will celebrate 100 years of Community Inspired Service in the Agriculture program with a reception and dinner that will reunite alumni from a variety of programs associated with the Agriculture Department and spotlight some of the community and business partners.

The Agriculture Department celebration is 6 p.m. Sept. 21 at the T.H. Kendall III Agriculture Complex. All events will be at McKenzie Arena off Seven Springs Road in Raymond. For more information, contact Wayne Boshart, 601.857.3583, Melissa Washburn at 601.857.3334 or Also see the Hinds Community College Facebook page.

Dr. Roger Jones, who has worked in the Hinds Agriculture Department since 1970 and is now chair, keeps tabs on many of his former students but is hoping to reconnect with some of the alumni he hasn’t heard from in a while. Among the goals of the reunion is to begin a new alumni chapter.

“This is a chance for them to come back, be able to reflect on a lot of things and maybe help us get some ideas on the future of the Ag program,” he said. “I personally would like to invite former students from Agribusiness Management, Veterinary Technology, Meat Merchandising, the former Agriculture Diesel Program, the former Food Processing Technology Program and the academic transfer students who majored in programs in Agriculture, Pre-Vet and Forestry. Our student organizations such as Agriculture Club and the Livestock Judging Teams drew students from all these areas.”

He also envisions better connections with those who work in companies that cater to agriculture, such as feed, seed, equipment and chemicals, as a way to help his students get jobs.

High school students toured Hinds Community College's Agriculture facilities at the T.H. Kendall III Agriculture Complex off Seven Springs Road in Raymond.

High school students toured Hinds Community College’s Agriculture facilities at the T.H. Kendall III Agriculture Complex off Seven Springs Road in Raymond.

The role of agriculture at the college can be traced to the start of the college itself in 1917, as an agricultural high school. The school operated a farm for both instruction as well as a source of food for the cafeteria. Students had tuition paid in exchange for working on the farm. Initially, eggs, milk, meat and vegetables were produced and processed by the department.

Expansion starting in the 1960s, coupled with changes in agribusiness technology, have transformed what the department produces, but not its importance to the college and, by extension, sustained agriculture as the state’s biggest economic driver. The 1970s brought the start of animal technology programs, and agribusiness was added to the curriculum.

In 1983, the first phase of a $2.6 million complex on Seven Springs Road was completed. It houses the college’s Billie Banes Livestock Evaluation Center, more commonly known as simply the Bull Test Station, Mississippi’s first such public bull test facility; McKenzie Arena, which houses multiple special events put on by the ag program; holding facilities and a sales arena for livestock; and classroom space for the Veterinary Technology and Landscape Technology programs.

A student demonstrates a combine simulator at Hinds Community College's Agriculture department at the T.H. Kendall III Complex off Seven Springs Road in Raymond.

A student demonstrates a combine simulator at Hinds Community College’s Agriculture department at the T.H. Kendall III Complex off Seven Springs Road in Raymond.

Further innovation in the 21st century’s opening decades has introduced the growing field of Precision Agriculture to Hinds. Students in the college’s Unmanned Aerial Systems program train to assist the farmers of today and tomorrow use technology to decide what to plant and where, variable rates of application of fertilizers and liming materials, as well as, to determine irrigation strategies, and pest control.

Another recently added program is the poultry option under agribusiness, which in May had its first three graduates. Adding new programs and updating existing curriculum is a constant need, one that Hinds alumni can help accomplish with their input, Jones said. “We are constantly trying to revise programs,” he said.

[tweetable alt=””]Hinds CC Agriculture program plans Sept. 21 reunion, program.[/tweetable]

Hinds Community College is celebrating its 100th year of Community Inspired Service in 2017. Hinds opened in September 1917 first as an agricultural high school and admitted college students for the first time in 1922, with the first class graduating in 1927. In 1982 Hinds Junior College and Utica Junior College merged, creating the Hinds Community College District. Today, as Mississippi’s largest community college, Hinds Community College is a comprehensive institution with six locations. Hinds offers quality, affordable educational opportunities with academic programs of study leading to seamless university transfer and career and technical programs teaching job-ready skills. To learn more, visit or call 1.800.HindsCC.

0 635 07 September, 2017 News more
Hinds CC Agriculture Department adds three classes for Fall 2015
Posted by
25 June

Hinds CC Agriculture Department adds three classes for Fall 2015

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

2 2767 25 June, 2015 News more