Mid Michigan College launches new agriculture program for students

Research by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) shares that small family farmers produce a third of the world’s food. Recognizing that, Mid Michigan College launched a new agriculture program this semester with a strong emphasis on sustainable agriculture techniques—anticipating that students can take on pivotal roles in aiding local farmers and enhancing their crop yields.

Richard Smith Ed.D., associate dean of off-campus instruction, has been with Mid Michigan College for approximately 12 years and oversees the newly established agriculture program. He supervises operations across 17 off-campus locations offering college courses at high school sites. Throughout his tenure, he has found “immense satisfaction in merging my love for the outdoors with helping students achieve their educational aspirations.” 

Epicenter talked with Smith to learn more about Mid’s agriculture program in this Q&A. 

Epicenter: Please tell us about your educational and agricultural background? 
Richard Smith Ed.D.: During my undergraduate years at Central Michigan University, I pursued a major in biology with a concentration in natural resources. Growing up on a horse and cattle farm in Big Rapids, MI, I developed a deep-seated passion for agriculture and our natural resources. In 2015, I successfully completed Ferris State University's Community College Leadership Doctoral program.

I have been with Mid Michigan College for approximately 12 years and currently hold the position of Associate Dean of Off-Campus Instruction. In this role, I have the privilege of overseeing the newly established Agriculture Program. 

Epicenter: Can you please share with us why the Agriculture Program at Mid Michigan College was implemented?
Smith: The implementation of the Agriculture Program at Mid Michigan College stems from a longstanding community interest. While Michigan State University has traditionally been the go-to institution for agricultural education in the state, there has been a growing need for a program catering to those who want to study farm management or agribusiness closer to home.

This demand is further underscored by projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which indicate a significant need for skilled professionals in agriculture businesses, along with farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers over the next decade. These roles are anticipated to offer competitive salaries, and Mid is committed to equipping students with the skills and knowledge required to excel in these vital fields.

Epicenter: What type of agriculture courses are within the program? 
Smith: The Agriculture Program at Mid Michigan College provides a comprehensive range of 13 courses designed to offer students a well-rounded understanding of the agricultural industry. These courses cover a spectrum of topics including animal science, crop and plant science, soil science, as well as soil and water conservation.

In addition to these technical subjects, the program also emphasizes personal and professional development. Students will receive guidance on setting and achieving career goals, honing professional correspondence skills, and delving into crucial aspects of farm management practices, as well as animal health and nutrition.

Moreover, graduates pursuing associate in applied science degrees, whether in farm management and operations or agriculture business, will have the valuable opportunity to engage in an agriculture internship. This hands-on experience allows students to put their academic knowledge into practice within a real-world working environment.

Epicenter: Mid is offering transfer-focused Agriculture Pathways as well. Can you please tell us more about how Mid prepares students to transfer to a four-year university to study animal science, crop and soil science, and agriculture business? 
Smith: The Agriculture Science degree at Mid is strategically designed as a transfer program, tailored for students aspiring to continue their education at esteemed institutions like Michigan State University and Andrews University. Both universities offer a range of specialized bachelor's degree programs in agriculture-related fields.

Here at Mid, students following this pathway will engage in a curriculum meticulously crafted to address their general education prerequisites. Additionally, they'll receive a comprehensive introduction to critical subjects such as animal science, crop and soil science, or agriculture business. This holistic approach ensures that students are well-prepared for the rigorous academic demands they'll encounter as they progress towards their bachelor's degree at their chosen four-year institution.

Epicenter: How will the new skills students gain within their academic studies and hands-on experiences thanks to the program positively impact the mid Michigan agriculture community? 

Smith: The acquisition of new skills through our academic program, coupled with hands-on experiences, holds immense promise for positively impacting the mid-Michigan agriculture community. One significant avenue of impact lies in the potential surge of innovation and heightened efficiency. As students gain advanced knowledge and practical know-how, they bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to the agricultural landscape. This could catalyze the adoption of more sustainable and efficient farming practices, along with the integration of cutting-edge technologies.

Furthermore, our program places a strong emphasis on sustainable agriculture techniques, which holds great potential for reducing environmental impact, conserving vital natural resources, and ensuring the long-term viability of farming operations. This commitment to sustainability promises far-reaching benefits for the community.

Additionally, we anticipate that our students will play a pivotal role in aiding local farmers to enhance their crop yields. Through their newfound expertise and hands-on experiences, they'll be well-equipped to offer valuable insights and strategies that can lead to increased agricultural productivity and prosperity for the mid-Michigan region.

Epicenter: If potential students or the community are looking to learn more about Mid’s new agriculture programs, where do you recommend they seek additional information? 
Smith: Students can learn more about Mid’s Agriculture Program by contacting Admissions via email at admissions@midmich.edu, calling (989) 386-6661, or texting (989) 444-5967, or by  visitingmidmich.edu/ag.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Courtney Jerome.

With 15 years of professional media experience, Courtney Jerome has found a passion for storytelling and showcasing our region in a positive light. She's written stories for television broadcasts, numerous magazines, and digital publications. In addition, she owns a boutique creative marketing agency that focuses on social media, photo, and video storytelling for small businesses across Michigan and the country — courtneyjeromemedia.com. Contact Courtney, the managing editor of Epicenter, at editor@epicentermtpleasant.com.