Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege un­veils two-year agri­cul­ture de­gree

Record Observer - - School - By JOSH BOLLINGER jbollinger@star­

WYE MILLS — The “col­lege in the corn field” just an­nounced a new agri­cul­ture de­gree pro­gram that’s the first of its kind in Mary­land.

The Mid-Shore’s Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege, which has un­der­gone an ex­ten­sive over­haul re­cently as part of its 50th an­niver­sary, held a move screen­ing of “Farm­land” on Thurs­day, March 31, in con­junc­tion with the an­nounce­ment of its new agri­cul­ture pro­gram.

The new pro­gram — a twoyear pro­gram for an Agri­cul­ture As­so­ciate of Ap­plied Sci­ence de­gree — is de­signed to cover all as­pects of farm­ing and the agri­cul­ture busi­ness, said Dr. Bar­bara Viniar, the col­lege’s pres­i­dent.

Ni­cole Fiorellino, the co­or­di­na­tor of agri­cul­ture pro­gram, said the de­gree in­volves 60 credit hours to­tal, with about 20 cred­its of gen­eral ed­u­ca­tion pre­req­ui­sites. There are two tracks in the pro­gram — pro­duc­tion or sus­tain­abil­ity.

“We cre­ated 11 new cour­ses specif­i­cally for the pro­gram, and they’re fo­cus­ing on in­struc­tion of the skills nec­es­sary to gain em­ploy­ment in agri­cul­ture,” Fiorellino said. “Ei­ther by di­ver­si­fy­ing a pre-ex­ist­ing op­er­a­tion or even branch­ing out and start­ing your own agri­cul­tural en­ter­prise.”

Ac­cord­ing to Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege, the de­gree em­pha­sizes soil sci­ence, horticulture, con­ven­tional and or­ganic grow­ing prac­tices, agribusi­ness, agri­cul­tural pol­icy, en­trepreneur­ship, small busi­ness skill and emerg­ing tech­nol­ogy.

Fiorellino also said the col­lege is fo­cused on help­ing stu­dents gain mean­ing­ful in­tern­ship ex­pe­ri­ences, and that it’s part of the de­gree re­quire­ments. The cur­ricu­lum also will cover some top­ics that would ap­pear on na­tional cer­ti­fi­ca­tion ex­ams, and the col­lege is go­ing to in­ves­ti­gate ad­min­is­ter­ing those ex­ams on cam­pus for stu­dents, “so we just make them even more em­ploy­able upon grad­u­a­tion from the pro­gram,” Fiorellino said.

Viniar said one of the things she likes about the pro­gram is all the ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents that can come from it.

Be­fore the screen­ing of “Farm­land,” at­ten­dees of the event gath­ered in the Todd Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter lobby and snacked on farmto-ta­ble hors d’oeu­vres, in­clud­ing lo­cally made cheese.

Viniar, re­lat­ing the pro­gram to the cheese, said, “It’s all well and good to make good cheese.”

“But then you have to pack­age it. You have to mar­ket it. So we want stu­dents to un­der­stand that agri­cul­ture is from till­ing the ground to grow­ing the food or feed­ing the cows and mak­ing good cheese, to get­ting the prod­uct out, be­cause it’s a busi­ness,” Viniar said.

Viniar said the pro­gram and de­gree stems from fo­cus group con­ver­sa­tions, ask­ing them what kind of pro­grams the col­lege should have.

But even more so, Viniar said, the pro­gram stems from where Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege is lo­cated — the ru­ral and agri­cul­ture-cen­tric East­ern Shore. It’s what sets the East­ern Shore and Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege apart from other com­mu­nity col­leges, so it made sense, she said.

Viniar said she would like to work with lo­cal farm­ers, those who have been farm­ing for decades and have in-depth knowl­edge and ex­per­tise of farm­ing, along­side the fac­ulty who will teach the stu­dents the lat­est tech­nol­ogy, “and we’ll marry those.”

“That’s what the East­ern Shore is about — the tra­di­tion and mov­ing for­ward,” she said.

The Mary­land De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Joe Barten­felder — who owns farms in Caro­line and Dorch­ester coun­ties — at­tended the “Farm­land” screen­ing and praised the new pro­gram for the op­por­tu­nity it presents to young stu­dents who are look­ing to get into the agri­cul­ture sec­tor.

He said as sec­re­tary of agri­cul­ture, he has spo­ken of the im­por­tance of ed­u­ca­tion on agri­cul­ture is­sues in an age when en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions are im­pact­ing farm­ers.

“It will not only ed­u­cate our farm com­mu­nity on what they need to do, but it’s also go­ing to pro­vide ed­u­ca­tion to the gen­eral pub­lic on what the farm com­mu­nity has done over the course of the last sev­eral years to get us where we are in our ef­forts to clean up the (Ch­e­sa­peake) Bay and our trib­u­taries,” Barten­felder said. “Where we are is we’re re­ally a leader na­tion­ally, as far as the steps that we’ve taken and where we’ve come.”

Barten­felder spoke of the pro­gram and one of its fo­cuses, mar­ket­ing, and the im­por­tance of not just mar­ket­ing in the United States but abroad in other coun­tries.

On the East­ern Shore, “agri­cul­ture is what makes the coin turn,” Barten­felder said, adding that if it wouldn’t be for the agri­cul­ture in­dus­try on the Shore, in par­tic­u­lar the poul­try in­dus­try, the Shore’s econ­omy “just wouldn’t sur­vive.”

“Mar­ket­ing is a key com­po­nent of the ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram that is here and it’s re­ally go­ing to be im­por­tant for the stu­dents to take ad­van­tage of that as they move into their fu­ture,” he said.

Barten­felder also said he’s en­cour­aged about the fu­ture of agri­cul­ture in Mary­land, as he’s see­ing more young peo­ple who want to get in­volved in the in­dus­try, “and with that you know that there’s a fu­ture there for them and there’s a fu­ture there for agri­cul­ture.”

Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege’s new Agri­cul­ture As­so­ciate of Ap­plied Sci­ence de­gree is sched­uled to de­but in the col­lege’s fall 2016 se­mes­ter.


Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege Pres­i­dent Dr. Bar­bara Viniar

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