USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is partnering with Northeast Iowa Community College in Calmar and eight other Midwest community colleges to support hands-on student learning about conservation and to foster conservation-minded farmers and ranchers.
On Sept. 21, representatives from the Community College Alliance for Agriculture Advancement (C2A3) and NRCS signed a national memorandum of understanding, agreeing to enhance and accelerate training and adoption of technologies and best practices for improved agricultural productivity and natural resources stewardship.
“This partnership provides the necessary framework to work together on common needs from a national perspective while also providing flexibility to address local concerns,” says Jon Hubbert, who was recently selected as state conservationist for NRCS in Iowa. “The more successful we are, the more likely we are to drive further innovation and adoption of practices and to impact long-term sustainability of our nation’s resources.”
Local, regional support
The agreement aims to reach not only ag students but also the broader community, through events such as field days. NRCS and the member institutions are developing local plans to address regional and statewide challenges and to support student internships and other training opportunities for college faculty, producers and NRCS employees. The colleges are also using the C2A3 network to share resources, knowledge and expertise with one another.
“Through this partnership, NRCS and the member institutions are also developing local plans to address regional and statewide challenges as well as support student internships and career goals, and other training opportunities for college faculty, NRCS employees and producers,” says Liang Chee Wee, Northeast Iowa Community College president. “This provides the necessary framework to work together on common needs from a national perspective, while also providing the flexibility to address local concerns and formulate solutions.”
Ongoing education, training
All C2A3 member institutions have college farms where they can implement conservation practices to educate and inform students and producers. Collectively, they are working on a grant through USDA’s North Central Sustainable Ag Research and Education (SARE) program, which seeks to increase awareness, knowledge and skills related to soil health, cover crops and no-till agriculture. Newly developed content, like videos and case studies, will help illustrate profitability, sustainability and productivity concepts. They will share these assets with all member institutions.
The C2A3 collaboration was formed to provide more ongoing education, training and demonstration projects for future farm producers and agricultural service providers to improve soil health, long-term productivity, resilience and sustainability.
C2A3 member institutions include:
- Central Lakes College (Staples, Minn.)
- Clark State Community College (Springfield, Ohio)
- Illinois Central College (Peoria, Ill.)
- Ivy Tech Community College (Lafayette, Ind.)
- Northcentral Technical College (Wausau, Wis.)
- Northeast Community College (Norfolk, Neb.)
- Northeast Iowa Community College (Calmar, Iowa)
- North Dakota State College of Science (Wahpeton, N.D.)
- Richland Community College (Decatur, Ill.).
Johnson is state public affairs specialist for NRCS in Iowa.