By Nikki Jamieson
Alta Newspaper Group – Coaldale
New program offerings at Lethbridge College are teaching students a bit of everything about agriculture.
Some of the changes the college has made include the common first year, which allows students to experience all three agriculture fields of study at the college; plant and soil, animal science and agribusiness.
“So what we’ve done is we’ve create a program where the first year is completely common between all three streams, so it’s really great for students because they can come in, they can take a year of courses, they can take a little bit of everything and take their time in figuring out what it is they want to do. So their second year is where they would specialize in one of those three areas,” said Mandy Gabruch, who teaches agribusiness at Lethbridge College.
Their new Agriculture Technology degree will come online in 2021. Gabruch said interested students would do two years in the plant and soil program first to receive their diploma, and will have the option to continue their studies in a third and forth year to get that degree. Gabruch said it will be a combination of studying agriscience and technology and equipment. The college had also recently signed a memorandum with Farming Smarter to train students.
“We’ve looked at many of our mentors, business around southern Alberta — I know we’ve worked with John Deere, Farming Smarter, a bunch of our irrigation companies — and we’ve looked at their common problem they have, and they’re finding that students either know how to use the computer work for finding out what wrong with the equipment, or they just know how to work on the equipment, but there really is nothing in-between,” said Josh Leith, a student at Lethbridge College. “This degree is basically kind of just a general degree that’s able to help them work with computers but still have that hands-on experience that they really need for a lot of these companies.”
“This is really something that was created for southern Alberta, especially. We have such a diverse agriculture industry here, so to have a degree that students can come and get and go back into the community and give back and be able to work with that, I think is huge.”
With the constantly changing agriculture field, Gabruch said it was important for the college to “stay current” in what they are teaching their students. A common theme when they’ve talked with people in the industry that they need people with expertise in both the science and technology sides of agriculture.
“We can’t get into our ivory tower of academia and disconnect form the industry,” said Gabruch. “At the college, that’s one of our big strengths, our relationship with industry. We really value that, and we want to make sure we are delivering student curriculum that’s actually going to give industry what it needs.”
Leith comes from a cow/calf family, and notes there is criticism that the agriculture industry isn’t very sustainable. At the college, in addition to the animal science he is studying, he also learns about the other fields and how to be more sustainable.
“For myself, just being able to take that and spread it on to the next business or when I take it back to my farm, I think that that’s something that all farmers should be doing more of. At least if I can do it, maybe someone else will see and they’ll start doing it as well,” said Leith, adding while cattle prices have rebounded in recent years, feed prices are up due to a lack of rain and other factors. “For farmers, they have to be able to be more resilient.”
“Just becoming more efficient with how we’re using our lands, how we’re using our feeds to benefit our cattle.”