HANCEVILLE, ALA. –Wallace State Community College’s Agriculture Production/Horticulture Department is set to unveil a new Sustainable Agriculture certificate option during the Spring 2015 semester, adding yet another intriguing dimension to the program.
Sustainable agriculture allows individuals to grow fruits and vegetables organically, using high tunnel greenhouses to cultivate produce year round. For instance, instead of planting one garden a year, the high tunnel greenhouses can yield three gardens a year.
“Sustainable agriculture is more geared towards backyard, small scale operations. It’s growing fruits and vegetables using nothing but all-natural processes. It allows you to grow fresh vegetables you can sell and use almost year round,” said Wallace State’s Anthony Hilliard, department head of the college’s Agricultural Production/Horticulture program. “Sustainable agriculture is growing in popularity nationwide. I’m excited we’re getting ready to offer this to our students. I think it will be very worthwhile.”
According to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the total and direct employment impact in food and kindred products manufacturing is approximately 146,000 jobs statewide. Among these jobs, Cullman County, the home county of Wallace State, ranks first in poultry and egg production and second in vegetable and melon farming.
Also, one of every 4.6 jobs in Alabama is related to agriculture, forestry or a related industry.
“With the rising demand of people wanting to eat locally, more and more people are becoming interested in learning how to grow something for a limited price. Sustainable agriculture also extends the growing season and creates a healthier product. There are people within this county who will be very interested in the sustainable agriculture operations we plan to pursue,” said Wallace State Dean of Applied Technologies Jimmy Hodges. “This certificate will provide future farmers in our area the training and development of skills needed in sustainable agriculture combined with hands-on basic farming operations, crop production and produce marketing. It’s going to be an exciting venture for us because we’ll be introducing a new way to grow produce and vegetables for our students, the college and the community.”
Wallace State’s Sustainable Agriculture certificate will require students to complete 60 credit hours within the program, including 27 specifically in the sustainable field.
Sustainable agriculture classes offered in the spring are HOC 115 Soils and Fertilizers and HOC 120 Plant Propagation. Those classes are also offered for a Horticulture degree. Electives for the program in the spring include AGP 281 Small Animal Husbandry and HOC 275 in either Orchid Culture or Beekeeping.
Students enrolled in the sustainable agriculture option will be expected to develop an understanding of the different aspects of sustainable agriculture as it relates to our society including soils, fertilizers and growing methods; demonstrate knowledge of sustainable agriculture techniques and skills through crop production which includes planting, cultivating, and harvesting crops and create a market plan for the sale of produce including advertising, product display and pricing.
At one of the current greenhouses on campus, Hilliard and his current agriculture/horticulture students have been growing a small array of lettuce, satsumas and limes, among other produce items.
Once the new high tunnel greenhouses arrive on campus, Wallace State students can considerably expand those efforts. These high tunnel structures appear to be regular greenhouses, but the produce is grown directly from the soil, and the houses have no air conditioning or heat. Instead, shade cloths and windows will effectively control the temperature.
“These high tunnel greenhouses will be just like a tent over the ground,” Hodges said. “You’ve got to monitor them closely.”
In addition, a hydroponics greenhouse and a fruit orchard will be added to campus. A hydroponics greenhouse allows plants to grow in a nutrient solution instead of from the soil.
As they have with projects in other areas, Hilliard said his sustainable agriculture students will collaborate with the Wallace State Culinary Arts program. They’ll work together in the harvesting of produce grown. Culinary students will be able to choose between produce grown by the traditional, organic or hydroponics method and see which type will be best suitable for a restaurant to use for public demand and cost efficiency.
In January, Hilliard attended a workshop hosted by the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG), which demonstrated various vegetable production methods being fulfilled through this process. The demand for sustainable agriculture in the state along with its rich background in the county and state was a key reason the certificate has been established.
The sustainable agriculture certificate option is the latest course addition to the department’s curriculum following Wallace State’s “2+2” poultry science partnership with Auburn University in June 2013.
For more information about the program contact Hilliard at 256.352.8035 or by email atAnthony.firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Wallace State, visit wallacestate.edu.
Pictures: Wallace State student Beatrice Woodard of Fairview examines some lettuce that has been produced this year in the Agriculture Production/Horticulture Department. Students will be able to grow more fruits and vegetables in an efficient manner with the sustainable agriculture certificate.
Charles Baker, a Wallace State student from Moody, observes lettuce that has been produced this year.
Wallace State Community College
P.O. Box 2000, Hanceville, AL 35077
1-866-350-9722 256-352-8443 direct
Visit us online at www.wallacestate.edu