OGLESBY — If the Illinois Valley Community College’s (IVCC) revitalized agriculture program was a crop, it would have strong roots and be growing tall and green.
With 14 students enrolled during its first year, program coordinators have said they expect the growth to continue as more local students choose to stay close to home to pursue their educational goals.
In his recent update to the IVCC Board, instructor and program coordinator Willard Mott said the estimated 1,200 students in area high school agriculture programs no longer have to travel to obtain an agricultural degree.
“Agriculture is the largest industry in our district; a significant portion of our tax base and the number of ag students in district high schools is increasing. Unfortunately, these students have been forced to travel long distances or perhaps even relocate to study at other community colleges and universities. We are changing that,” Mott said.
According to Mott, high school agriculture program enrollments include 183 students at Ottawa, 138 at Princeton, 132 in Seneca, 104 in Streator, 101 at Fieldcrest, 98 in Woodland, 95 from Serena, 88 in Bureau Valley, 80 at Midland, 76 in Mendota and 73 at Putnam County. In addition, LaSalle-Peru High School will soon be bringing back their agriculture program.
IVCC’s program went through significant changes to its curriculum and benefited from feedback and support from an advisory committee and the University of Illinois Extension office which is located on campus. The program also received extensive marketing and media coverage and “showed the flag” at ag events throughout its district.
The IVCC Board also recently approved a degree in agricultural business management, and Mott also plans to add an agronomy degree and a student organization. The program already has a strong internship program with local agri-businesses, and Mott believes will lead to future employment for many of his students.
IVCC’s agriculture program can lead to a career after two years and offers an easy transition to four-year colleges and universities. Courses are transferable to state colleges offering bachelor’s degrees in agriculture.
According to information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Purdue University, an estimated 300,000 ag-related jobs are expected to open over the next five years with only about 175,000 graduates with ag-related degrees to fill them.
For more information on IVCC’s agriculture program, visit www.ivcc.edu/agriculture.aspx or call 815-224-0413.