‘Sustainable’ farming draws students

Sustainable agriculture is motivating young people to seek community college programs in horticulture, turf management, landscaping and other areas, writes Stuart Rosenfeld, in the Community College Journal, reprinted in Community College Times.

Less than 2 percent of Americans work in agriculture. However, the environmental movement has rekindled interest in the field. A growing number of colleges are starting or planning agriculture programs, writes Rosenfeld. Many are members of the Alliance for Sustainability, “a network of community colleges dedicated to sustainable rural development funded by the Ford Foundation.”

Johnson County Community College in Kansas cooperates with Kansas State University to teach sustainable and organic farming to meet the demand for local and organic foods in Kansas City.

Alfred State College in New York has a Center for Organic and Sustainable Agriculture, as well as the Pioneer Farm, which teaches about sustainable farming and grazing and humane animal husbandry.

Marshalltown Community College in Iowa claims the Midwest’s first degree program in sustainable agriculture, which began in 2004 and is supported by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University.

Seattle Central Community College is just starting a new 19-credit “emphasis” within associate degree and certificate programs in sustainable agriculture.

Mesa Community College​ outside of Phoenix has a new urban-oriented certificate and an associate degree program in sustainable food systems that integrates organics, culinary arts, food disposal and direct sales.

However, most community colleges that offer degrees in agriculture stress conventional farming, preparing students for careers in agribusiness.