Over the past 2 years, Sauk Valley Community College has reached out to our citizens to determine how best to serve the community with new program opportunities. This was made possible through community forums and many conversations with our students, citizens and industry members who drive our efforts.
Through these conversations, we heard that a vital part of local industry was missing from Sauk’s list of programs – agriculture. Further discussion from our local agriculture base indicated that more than 25 different job opportunities exist today throughout the Sauk Valley.
From this collaboration with local agriculture workforce professionals, and investigation into the potential impact to our area, we’ve built an Ag program we believe meets diverse workforce needs throughout our community.
Sauk Ag offers general education and core agriculture requirements, such as soil science and plant science. Students can choose between courses that emphasize one of two tracks – business or technical. The business track focuses on management, accounting and economics, while the technical track focuses on welding, electrical and mechanical systems. The advisory council that represents the Sauk Valley community built these two unique pathways for students.
With a strong ag foundation in place, our expectations for rapid growth are high. In the coming year, Sauk and its partners will work to develop a program that reflects emerging technologies in precision agriculture with courses that focus on variable rate technology, drones in agriculture, and irrigation strategies.
In addition, we plan to expand technical course offerings to include agronomy, creating opportunities to learn about plants, soils, irrigation, conservation and agribusiness concepts.
Sauk Ag also aims to increase student access to local farms for participation in a unique farm operation capstone course – using the knowledge they acquire through the program to manage a working farm. Students will be responsible for all business decisions related to production agriculture, better preparing them to enter the agricultural industry.
Another short-term goal of Sauk Ag includes working with 4-year institutions offering agriculture in Illinois and beyond. Through these partnerships, Sauk fosters a rich history of helping students transition successfully in their future educational pursuits.
SVCC is proud to provide this new and exciting opportunity to serve the community. Sauk Ag will give students access to a great education, driven by years of experience from our instructors and local industry members. We look forward to “growing” the next generation of agriculture professionals in the community.
Note to readers: Jon Mandrell, Ph.D., is vice president of Academics and Student Services at Sauk Valley Community College, while Ryan Anderson, Ph.D., is professor of agriculture.