by Kevin Pink
At the start of the current academic year Indian Hills Community College debuted a new academic program that is sort of a hybrid, blending new areas of emphasis with some established courses. The new Agriculture and Construction Technology Department, housed on the Centerville campus, includes Landscape and Turfgrass, Animal Science, Precision Farming and Construction Technology.
Neric Smith, the program director, says one of the reasons for the new program is a response to what the college was hearing from various advisory committees. “In each of our degree options the students learn by doing, and they’re encouraged to know the entire scope of their degree area,” Smith said. “For example, the Landscape and Turfgrass students interested in golf course management will not only learn about the turfgrass maintenance, but they’ll also learn about flowers, trees, landscaping and greenhouse production. This is useful because at some point they may be involved in the maintenance of the clubhouse grounds and have other duties at the course.”
With the program now headquartered on the Centerville campus, the college is better able to take advantage of the facilities located there and nearby. There is a baseball complex to care for, close proximity to a golf course and extensive grounds for turfgrass maintenance. In addition, there is a greenhouse on campus, a cow-calf operation on land the college received from the Rathbun Area Solid Waste Commission, as well as numerous other row crop and partner facilities not far from campus.
Smith points to size as one of the strengths of the program. “The Ag and Construction Technology department is a great size to foster teamwork and learning,” he says. “Everyone is given the opportunity to get to know their classmates – the ones they are working on projects with – and they build relationships which last for a long time. The instructors work together in the various courses and provide their own expertise to all the students. We are also fortunate to have industry experts to teach specific courses when possible.”
One of Smith’s goals is to increase the use and production of the greenhouse, which was constructed on the Centerville campus in 2014. He says one of the reasons for moving the Landscape and Turfgrass program from the Ottumwa campus to Centerville was to let students learn the basics of plant growth and production and explore market opportunities for horticultural crops. “The greenhouse gives students a chance to practice growing outside of class as student workers,” Smith explained. “Crops will be rotated through and new markets will be explored.”
The greenhouse was filled with prefinished mums during the fall term and Smith says they are now transitioning into a green bean crop along with hydroponically-produced cucumbers.
“I am excited to be able to oversee the growth of this new combination of programs into one department,” Smith says, “and we’ll strive to maintain stability and continuity in our teaching.”
Questions about the Agriculture and Construction Technology program can be directed to Neric.Smith@indianhills.edu.
(This is a monthly column, provided by Indian Hills Community College)