From wjfw.com: “NTC’s Ag Center of Excellence gives students valuable, hands-on dairy experience” — WAUSAU – Programs offered at the Northcentral Technical College’s Ag Center of Excellence help students interested in the agriculture industry.

The Ag Center offers hands-on learning opportunities for its students.

That includes learning about a robotic milker and feeding calves.

Right now, more than 100 students are involved in Ag Center of Excellence programs.

“I think it’s a great opportunity. Just the learning experience and being able to see the different aspect of the farming industry, or part of the agriculture business. I don’t have much experience myself, so any opportunity is a great opportunity,” said Rylee Gregoriche, a Dairy Science Student at the Ag Center.

Gregoriche says she appreciates learning more about agriculture and being able to participate in the internships that are available with the Ag Center.

The center offers Associate degrees in dairy science, veterinarian sciences and agriculture business.

There’s also a technical program for operating agriculture equipment.

Leaders at the Ag Center believe these programs adequately prepare students for their futures.

“They can go on to do a variety of things in the agriculture world. Most of the time, that experience coupled with the degree, [agriculture] people are more than happy to hire them because they’ve had that experience,” Katie Vandergeest, Agriculture Sciences Development Manager.

The Ag Center of Excellence opened its doors in June of 2011.

There is still room available in summer and fall classes.

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From greenbaypressgazette.com: “Area students learn about employment in agriculture” — Seventh- and eighth-grade students from five area public schools had the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of 32 different agricultural employment fields at the Kewaunee County Economic Development Corp.-sponsored Ag Career Days. More than 900 students gathered at Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy April 10-11 to learn about potential future careers based in agriculture.

“Today is about showcasing opportunities available in agriculture,” said Tori Sorenson, GreenStone Farm Credit Services and co-chair of the KCEDC Ag Committee. “Students are getting further away from family farms, and we want to make these local opportunities known.”

Students had the opportunity to rank four different “clusters” of careers: Dollars and Sense, Grinding Gear, Diggin’ Deep and Cow “Tipping,” with the intention of learning about specific jobs within those clusters.

After a bus tour of the Ponderosa, the students broke into their groups and had the opportunity to interact with local business people.

“We need to put the tools in the toolbox and offer the opportunity to learn about where food comes from,” Sorenson said.

Monica Streff, a nutritionist at Cornette Farm Supply, dairy farmer and custom calf ranch raiser, served as one of the stops in the Cow “Tipping” cluster, and she talked about mixing products to create a formula for calf nutrition.

“I look at kids as the future of agriculture. If we don’t educate them today, we may not have a future,” Streff said. “There are jobs that involve more than just animals, like in horticulture, crops, sales, mechanics, fruits and vegetables.”

Steve Bretl of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College was a presenter in the Grinding Gear cluster, informing students about the diesel technician program at NWTC. He was showing the students how to use a PTO dynamometer, which can calculate if a piece of machinery is producing the horsepower and torque it is rated for.

“The complexity of the industry requires students to have communications, math, and technical skills in high school to prep them for program soft skills,” Bretl said. “It is important to make them aware now of what they can do and how they can obtain their goals.”

Students from Luxemburg-Casco, Algoma, Kewaunee, Denmark and Southern Door attended the two-day event.

From wisconsinagconnection.com: “Fox Valley Tech to host Dairy Challenge Competition” — College students from 10 states will be heading to Appleton next week to participate in the Midwest Dairy Challenge, being hosted this winter by Fox Valley Technical College. Contest organizers say teams from 18 different schools will be competing in the February 5-7 event, which helps college students planning a career in the dairy industry put their skills to the test.

Each team of students will inspect an actual operating dairy by analyzing real farm data and interviewing the farm’s owners. They will then develop recommendations for nutrition, reproduction, milking procedures, animal health and housing to help the farm optimize performance and profitability.

The Midwest event is one of four regional contests sponsored each year by North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge. Over its 13-year history, the contest has helped prepare over 4,000 students for careers as dairy owners or managers, consultants, researchers, veterinarians or other dairy professionals.

The 2014 national event will be April 3-5 in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

 

From thecountrytoday.com: “Broadening opportunities: New CVTC instructors bring industry insider knowledge” — EAU CLAIRE — With a few fresh faces on its agricultural staff, Chippewa Valley Technical College is looking forward to a bright future in 2014. In the past year, the college hired three new agriculture instructors. CVTC horticulture instructor Susan Frame said the new additions bring industry knowledge that will help students excel in their fields.

“One of the advantages Chippewa Valley Technical College students have is that the instructors have been in the industry,” Frame said.

Among the new arrivals are animal science instructor Adam Zwiefelhofer, agronomy instructor Jon Wantoch and farm business instructor Maria Bendixen. All three are UW-River Falls alumnus.

Zwiefelhofer, who majored in agricultural education, hails from the Eleva-Strum area.

The former Genex breeding specialist said teaching was a natural transition, noting, “I always knew I wanted to teach.”

Wantoch, a Mondovi native, majored in agricultural studies with minors in dairy science and biology and was previously employed by Lakeland Cooperative.

The switch to teaching was an easy one, he said, adding, “Helping others fits who I am.”

Bendixen taught high school agriculture in Colby and spent a year serving as UW-Extension agriculture agent for Taylor and Marathon counties before signing on as Clark County’s agent, a position she held for seven years.

Though she worked directly with producers as an ag agent, Bendixen said she was interested in being able to work with them on a more continual basis.

“I’m excited to be able to work with farmers for an extended period of time and to be able to follow up,” she said.

Bendixen joins veteran farm business instructor Mark Denk in aiding farmers in continuing education throughout western Wisconsin.

Continuing education

Zwiefelhofer said many people don’t realize the extent of continuing education CVTC offers.

The ag programs have 80 students on campus. Another 160, mainly farmers, are enrolled in the Farm Business and Production Management program, which offers resources to improve management skills. The program features part-time instruction with topics rotating over six years, versus the typical time-intensive 32-week school year.

Students range from high schoolers (enrolled in the youth option) to farmers in their 70s, Denk said, noting the broad variety of ages and backgrounds creates a unique peer setting not found at larger educational institutions.

“There’s a lot of knowledge transfer that comes into play there,” Bendixen said. “It leads to some lively discussions — which is fortunate, because in agriculture, there’s no one right way to do things.”

Zwiefelhofer said the school has adjusted its curriculum for the ever-diversifying niches of Wisconsin agriculture.

“I think we’ve flexed with the times,” he said. “If there aren’t jobs for our students, we’re not going to be around in the future.”

Though their three main program areas are agriscience technician; landscape, plant and turf management; and farm business and production management, Denk said the instructors have helped students branch out into other topics.

“We’ve had students interested in hops, for example,” he said. “In that case we end up working with them on a more individualized basis or connect them with an industry partner, but the backbone of what they need to learn remains the same.”

That backbone is rooted in ag-focused marketing, sales, equipment and facility courses. From there, students can branch out into the varying tracks.

Industry partners, such as Case IH and John Deere, have been instrumental in CVTC’s ag programs, Denk said.

“I personally feel like we touch on community more than the larger universities,” Zwiefelhofer said. “The labs we do are mostly on farms or businesses in our local community.”

The college has an active biofuels program in which students grow the crops used to generate biofuels. Students can also become certified in skills such as commercial pesticide application, skid-steer operation and performing animal ultrasounds.

Two greenhouses on campus allow students to grow produce, which this year was sold in an on-campus farmers market.

“We also do hydroponics and work closely with cooperating farms and the local farming population,” Frame said.

Students also benefit from a strong internship program, Zwiefelhofer said.

“The internships they take between their first and second year are really what separate us from the larger schools,” he said. “A lot of times it leads into employment.”

Those interested in learning more about the ag programs are welcome to shadow classes.

CVTC also has a transfer agreement that allows students to carry credits into the UW system.

Denk is eager to see how the ag programs develop with the influence of the new instructors.

“We’ve got a great staff here,” he said. “We’re committed to working together for the students’ success.”

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