Dave Downey started it. Jay Akridge expanded it. Now Alan Gray is seeing it thrive, partly because the market place and demand for training is growing.
'It' is the Center for Food and Agricultural Business at Purdue. The center was established just over 25 years ago when Downey, in the Purdue University ag economics department, saw a need for people in ag industry to acquire more training. The Extension service worked well for farmers, but didn't have as easy a time of access with ag industry. The center that he spawned offers programs for people, primarily executives, in ag business who want to be updated on issues relating ag business here and around the world.
About 30% of the sessions put on yearly by the center are open sessions, says Alan Gray, the current director. Jay Akridge moved down the street to become Dean of Agriculture a couple of years ago. About half of the sessions offered are what he calls custom sessions. These are designed for large companies, many on the supply side in agriculture, that see the value in training their top employees ab out what's happening inside the ag business world.
While farmers don't typically attend they benefit when the people in companies they deal with who make decisions are better informed about the forces at work in the ag econony. Programs vary in length from two days to an entire week.
The Center is successful Gray believes, because it showcases the outstanding staff in terms of knowledge and presentation that Purdue has in the ag economics area. Staff members present the sessions, while people hired specifically to work with clients line up people to come to hear them. Others called event managers are in charge of logistics such as food and housing for the groups while they are at the sessions.The center is self-supporting, Gray says, and does not require other university funds. Those who attend pay the going rate for this type of education to attend the sessions.