Agriculture program wins award

Revised agriculture program wins awards

Wenatchee Valley College's newly revised agriculture program is already winning state and national recognition.

This fall, the National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) will present WVC with the Outstanding Postsecondary Program Award for Region I at a ceremony in Nashville, Tenn. Region I consists of 11 western states, including Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, Alaska and Hawaii.

The WVC Agriculture Program also won the Washington Association of Agriculture Education (WAAE) state award for Outstanding Postsecondary Program. George Ruddell, WVC adjunct agriculture faculty member, was recognized for outstanding service. The agriculture program and Ruddell were presented the awards, nominated by high school agriculture teachers in North Central Washington, in Yakima this summer.

The national award comes with the use of a Toyota Tundra pickup for two years by the college agriculture department and travel expenses for a WVC employee to attend the NAAE convention Nov. 17-21. WVC was selected for national consideration at the regional meeting in May.

The WVC Agriculture department has undergone a comprehensive revision and a new title to reflect the diverse nature of the agriculture industry it serves. The new title, Sustainable Agriculture and Resource Systems, includes four educational pathways: agriculture, horticulture, natural resources and agribusiness.

"Through a collaborative effort of educators and industry professionals, we have a new framework for our agriculture program that is based on flexible pathways for our students," said Jim Richardson, president of WVC. "This was a major undertaking, and it's exciting to see the hard work of so many people in our college and communities recognized at this level."

That effort began about three years ago with WVC faculty members from agriculture, business, sciences and social sciences; the WVC Agriculture Program Advisory Committee; industry leaders; and faculty members and administrators from district high schools and Washington State University (WSU).

Ruddell was a key player in the revision of the program, developing much of the curriculum, according to Dr. Terry Peek, vice president of instruction. Ruddell, however, is quick to note Hugh Vibbert, who retired as dean of workforce education last spring, served as an important catalyst for the changes. WVC faculty members Dr. Bob Gillespie, Leo Garcia, Francisco Sarmiento and Nelson Martin contributed to the revisions with their time and expertise.

"They, plus the high school agriculture teachers from Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan counties, played a huge part in making this happen," said Peek. "It took three long, hard years."

Ruddell also praised the work of high school agriculture teachers, who collaboratively supported and implemented the new curriculum that provides a seamless alignment with WVC options, including Agricultural Survey, Introductory Horticulture, and Introduction to Natural Resource Management.

The WVC Agricultural Program is designed to address the entry-level training and educational needs in agriculture industries. With the new framework, students can earn certificates, two-year associate in technical sciences degrees, and baccalaureate degrees from partnering universities, including WSU and the University of Idaho. Along with transfer options from high school to WVC to universities, pathways are available for those who need retraining to change careers and for workers who need new skills for higher wages and greater workplace responsibilities.

The four pathways profile local, state and U.S. agriculture and the issues facing contemporary agriculture, horticulture and natural resources. Topics include food and fiber production, processing, resource management, global food supply, conservation and energy, and universal economics.

Students can develop skills in plant, soil and animal biology; pest and disease management; food processing, storage and distribution; mineral resources and energy alternatives; agricultural commodities marketing; agricultural business and economic principles; sustainable agriculture and resource management; and GIS, land classification and measurement.

"The success of our program is a result of the strength of our partnerships," said Peek. "We value and respect the insight, experience and knowledge of our industry experts and the continued support and collaboration with the high school agriculture instructors."