MCC program plants seeds of confidence for a career in agriculture
The Entrepreneurial Agriculture program at McHenry County College has been making a significant impact with students and the community since its inception just two years ago. Through a combination of food production training, business education, and connections with local growers, the program prepares both degree-seeking students and food and farm innovators for a successful and rewarding future in the regional food economy.
"Over the past several years, we've seen a renewed interest in the farm-to-table movement and people wanting to know where their food comes from," said Garrett Beier, department chair of Entrepreneurial Agriculture and Horticulture at MCC. "Many people in our community either come from a farming background but need the business courses to help them market their goods or have an interest in food/farming but need some formal training on the growing process and the industry."
For those who think this type of career might be a good fit for them, Beier suggests a few introductory classes, including Introduction to Agriculture, Introductory Agriculture Practicum, and Plant Science.
Introduction to Agriculture looks at the wide range of farming businesses and features discussions on food security, agriculture policy, sustainability, and technology in agriculture, while Introductory Agriculture Practicum is more of a hands-on experience in vegetable and fruit production using the MCC student farm.
"Students who choose this track could pursue a career in many areas of agriculture, including crops, livestock, food production and more," said Beier. "It's a great starting point if you think you might be interested in something like this but aren't sure what specific area yet."
On the horticulture side, the college offers classes in Landscape and Floral Design as well as a new class, Specialty Crops, which will introduce students to mushroom, hops, and fruit production.
"Students in the Landscape Design class participate in drawing exercises beginning with simple lines and lettering, and end with a complete home landscape planting plan," said Beier. "And in the Floral Design classes, we'll work with the new cut flower gardens to give students a feel for working with a full flower production farm."
Other Horticulture classes offered this fall include Greenhouse Production, Plant Problem Diagnosis, and Introduction to Hydroponics.
"The possibilities are really endless with these degrees," Beier added. "Our graduates can pursue a variety of exciting career paths including farm ownership and operations, greenhouse management, landscaping, floral production and design, or even bookkeeping and marketing specific to farm businesses."
Since welcoming its first cohort in Fall 2020, the Agriculture program has been steadily expanding each year, offering more hands-on learning opportunities and training to meet the most up-to-date needs of the industry. Students participate in a weekly on-campus farm stand in the fall and take part in an annual plant sale in the spring where they sell vegetable, flower, and herb plants. Both sales are open to the community.
"We also recently completed an herb garden that will be used by our Culinary program and Cafeteria," said Beier. "And we added a Seed Library for community use. Whenever the college is open, anyone can pick up seeds to use in their home garden for free. We have everything from tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce to pumpkins, beets, and hundreds of flowers and herbs."
The seed library is located in the Center for Agrarian Learning, room A229.
The program is also currently in the process of expanding the on-campus student farm to include a cut flower bed, fruit trees, small fruits, a pollinator garden, and hops.
Students interested in joining the program or learning more can visit www.mchenry.edu/ag or email email@example.com.