Beginning this fall, Pueblo Community College will offer a certificate program in agricultural production at its Southwest campus in Mancos.
The new program was designed in collaboration with local farmers, ranchers, educators and students to fit the needs of the Four Corners.
Students will have the opportunity to pursue a career in production agriculture, animal science and agricultural technology.
The goal is to fill an educational need that will benefit the regional economy and enable new generations of farmers, ranchers and producers to remain in the area, said Heather Houk, agricultural program coordinator at PCC Southwest.
PCC’s program will be tailored to the community, whether students want to enter agricultural work, improve their existing business, or transfer to a four-year school to complete a bachelor’s degree in an agriculture-related program.
Several meetings were held in early 2020 with farmers, ranchers, agricultural businesses, K-12 education leaders and other interested people to begin formulating the mission and scope of the new program, Houk said.
“I didn’t want to create a program that makes sense to me but doesn’t make sense to anyone else,” she said in an interview.
Emily Lockard, research associate at the Colorado State University Southwestern Colorado Research Center, will teach the first classes in the program. The first classes will be introduction to agricultural business and a course in animal science.
Classes are expected to be held in-person and online.
In the future, the agricultural certificate program expects to work with other PCC programs to offer courses in welding specific to agricultural needs and in tractor repair, Houk said.
The college will offer advanced training and workshops for producers; professional development courses for agricultural educators; and college-level courses for students in existing high school agriculture programs.
“It’s no secret that better-trained producers are being smarter with their resources,” Houk said. “The potential financial impact of our program is enormous for our community. Learning to use less water, using less infrastructure, conserving soil, water and nutrients – this efficiency leads to a higher rate of return.”
As the program develops, PCC plans to expand its educational pathways in animal sciences, crop production, agricultural technology and farm business management.
Registration is now open for PCC’s fall semester.