Beyond High School
FFA members often cite a culture of close-knit family as a favorite part of their years in the organization. They develop feelings of trust and friendships that last with those who share in their FFA experiences. The agriculture program at State Fair Community College (SFCC) in Sedalia, Missouri, has capitalized on that same culture.
“There are a number of reasons that students enjoy the program,” says Brad Driskill, agriculture program coordinator at SFCC. “Most agriculture students like the close-knit bonds that are formed in their high school agriculture programs and participation in FFA. We provide an environment conducive to that culture.”
Driskill says their agriculture program offers courses and degrees with a dual purpose: to support students seeking careers in agriculture and to support the agricultural industry seeking a trained workforce. This is accomplished by offering four Associate of Applied Science degrees, two professional certificates and an Associate of Arts degree for students wishing to transfer to a university to continue their education.
At SFCC, students can pursue associate degrees in arts or in agriculture with an emphasis in agribusiness, agronomy, animal science or horticulture. They also have the option of obtaining a professional certificate in agribusiness or agronomy.
The location of the college helps attract students interested in the offered programs.
“From our location, south we get many students who have an animal science focus, but from Sedalia, north we get students who tend to have an agronomy focus,” Driskill says.
This diversity in student interest allows the agriculture program to integrate both areas into effective educational opportunities. Each degree and certificate area of the program focuses on both specific skills needed to help students in their future careers and soft skills needed across the board.
“SFCC Agriculture focuses on work-based skills in the specific degree area,” Driskill says. “Students are trained in technical knowledge that will help Associate of Applied Science degree seekers enter the workforce and help Associate of Arts degree seekers prepare for transfer to a university. In addition to technical skills, we focus on leadership, citizenship and essential skills need for employability.”
From calculating yield estimates in local fields to growing mums and greenhouse plants for student-operated sales, every student passing through the SFCC agriculture program becomes familiar with hands-on learning. All Associate of Applied Science degree-seeking students are even required to obtain an internship position for further hands-on experience.
SFCC Agriculture students also receive personal growth and career exploration opportunities as they move through the program. One of these opportunities comes from participation in the Professional Agriculture Students (PAS) organization, a nationwide collegiate group that continues the leadership opportunities FFA provides. Driskill says students always enjoy the organization, as PAS offers skill set development and network opportunities in addition to its national collegiate-level competition-style learning model.
Students also receive career guidance from required classes in the SFCC agriculture program.
“The ag program engages each student that comes through the program to help them determine career goals,” Driskill says. “We have a sequence of classes that focus on employment, goal setting and personal skill identification. This helps us guide each student into a career path that best suits them.”
From hands-on learning to personal skill growth and career exploration, SFCC Agriculture students are ready to tackle the workforce or pursue additional education in the agricultural industry upon graduation from the program. More information on the SFCC ag program can be found at https://www.sfccmo.edu/academics-programs/areas-of-study/agriculture/.
—By Brandelyn Martin Twellman