Opening the Doors to a High-Tech Ag Education for All Students

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Real-world thinking coupled with real-world experience is crucial to agriculture education today.

05.10.17
Isabelle Weiler is already dipping her toe into the world of agribusiness. As a second-year student at Ivy Tech in Richmond, Indiana, she wrote a complete business plan for an equine training center. She had to think about every detail the way an entrepreneur would, from the name and logo of her dream business to inventory costs and job descriptions for employee.
 
This kind of real-world thinking, coupled with real-world experience, is absolutely crucial to agriculture education today. Real-world experience requires schools to invest in top-of-the-line facilities. That’s why Ivy Tech Richmond is making major improvements to its ag lab by adding a greenhouse. Farm Credit Mid-America is helping support this capital investment.
 
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Scott Caldwell, Ag Program Chair at Ivy Tech Richmond, says that the new greenhouse will provide more opportunities for students like Isabelle to do research and explore careers. It will also have a production component: a student-led business that can be integrated into the curriculum throughout the school as well as bring in income for the department.
 
Just as importantly, the new facilities will bring much-needed visibility to the ag program, which has aggressive goals to increase its student body from around 35 to 80 or more. “This reinforces the legitimacy of our educational program,” Caldwell says. “We’ve got great teaching, but this improves our facilities.”
 
He adds that the school’s relationship with Farm Credit goes well beyond its investment and has become a true partnership, involving employees as guest lecturers and speakers as well as other financial support.
 
That other support includes endowed scholarships and classroom improvements at the seven Ivy Tech community college campuses across Indiana. It also includes investing in a precision ag equipment technology program on the Terre Haute campus that will offer training and experience to more than two dozen students launching their ag careers.
 
Isabelle, who is attending Ivy Tech Richmond with the help of a Farm Credit scholarship, agrees that Farm Credit team members have become partners to her personally making introductions and opening doors that will help shape her future career. She’s seeing Farm Credit live out its mission on her campus and in her education.
 
“They’re giving me an opportunity to do what I love — and not just me, but future generations,” she says. “Because they’re sustaining rural communities, anyone and everyone will have a chance to be involved in agriculture.”
 
After Isabelle graduates from Ivy Tech with her associate’s degree in general agriculture, she plans to complete her four-year degree at either Purdue or Indiana University East. She says she probably won’t go on to open that equine training center — although you never know. Instead, she hopes to go into agricultural lending, so she can use her real-world training to help other people turn their dreams into plans that advance the future of rural communities and agriculture. 

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