George Washington is credited with saying, “Agriculture is the most healthful, most useful and most noble employment of man.” With the recent implementation of a $400,000-plus grant from the National Science Foundation, Clark State Community College continues to lead in the field of agriculture education, having recently been appointed as the hub for the Ohio Center for Precision Agriculture.
“The Ohio Center for Precision Agriculture is a new entity,” said Dr. Larry Everett, professor and coordinator of the Precision Agriculture program for Clark State and director of the Ohio Center for Precision Agriculture. “This center is designed to serve as the precision agriculture clearing house of information in Ohio. Many people and businesses have questions, and this serves as an information center for them.”
The NSF grant also supports Clark State’s Precision Technologies: Integrating Agriculture and Geo-Sciences project. The funds became available July 1 and are in line with Clark State’s two-year Precision Agriculture degree program. “This grant gives Clark State a strategic step forward in taking our Precision Agriculture program to the next level,” said Clark State President Dr. Jo Alice Blondin.
In addition to leading the Ohio Center for Precision Agriculture, Everett said other plans for the three-year NSF grant include: hosting summer workshops for high school teachers and students to expand and explore key concepts of precision agriculture; expand transfer pathways with four-year colleges and universities; and develop a new Precision Agriculture Technician degree program at Clark State.
Everett said agriculture has always been technology based but, what makes precision agriculture different from agriculture is the capability to gather information on each plant or animal and develop the best “prescription” or recommendation for their success. “The key to this difference is precision mapping that allows several key components to be overlaid,” he said. “A soil test map, a yield map, a drainage map, a topography map…can be placed accurately using GPS coordinates. Using this data, producers can develop fertilizer, plant population, pest control and equipment guidance recommendations for each part of the field. Precision sensors and guidance systems allow accurate placement of seed etc. to within half-inch accuracy.”
Everett said the agriculture career field includes a variety of jobs immediately available, ranging from working for producers, farm co-ops, park districts, irrigation or drainage companies, watershed management firms, precision agriculture companies and many others.
“Agriculture is a very broad term,” he said. “There are thousands of agriculture careers. I’m sure there are uses for precision agriculture that we haven’t even thought of yet.”
The two-year Precision Agriculture program was implemented at Clark State three years ago. Clark State will also work with two other community colleges - Parkland College, Champaign, IL and Ellsworth Community College, Iowa Falls, IA - to develop a precision agriculture curriculum.
Students interested in learning more about precision agriculture are encouraged to contact Clark State or stop by the booth at the Clark County Fair July 22-29 for more information.
“The Clark State Agriculture program has a total of eight programs available to students,” said Everett. “It is a great time to be in agriculture because there are many, many great high paying, full-time jobs in agriculture and horticulture available.”