November 14, 2018

From the Ground Up!

Starting a new program at a community college can be a little bit like planting crops. A lot of preparation has to take place, along with long hours and dealing with things that are beyond your control. While in the end, hoping that all of your hard work pays off with a bountiful harvest. For John A. Logan College, the hard work of starting an Agriculture Program has already begun to pay off with eight new Ag courses, and three degree programs being approved for a fall 2019 start.

Now the College shifts it focus to the harvest as newly hired Ag Instructor, Dr. Wayne Griffith, hits the road to meet prospective students and too promote the new program. Luckily for the College, Griffith, who spent the past 20 years cultivating the Ag department at Marion High School, is no stranger to growing a program.

“The first year I was at Marion High School I was hired part-time and had two classes with about 12 students,” said Griffith. “Within a couple of years we grew the program to an average of 90 to 100 students in both the program and the FFA Chapter.”

Griffith was quick to note that the tremendous support received in building the Marion program has been equaled or even surpassed in his short-time at the College.

“I can’t say enough about all of the people from the administration and staff to the faculty that have helped me prepare the class syllabi and program information for approval to IAI transfer panel by October 1. Even though I have worn the hinges off of their doors with questions, they have been nothing but enthusiastic and supportive,” said Griffith.

The collective work paid off when all eight courses and three degree programs (Ag Education, Agribusiness, and Agriculture) were all approved. According to Griffith, the focus the first year will be students whose main intent is to transfer to four-year universities. Once that is established he will begin the work of preparing a two-year program that will be designed for students wanting to enter an Ag related field after completing their work at JALC.

“We will design a program for students that want to get a two-year Agribusiness degree under their belt and then enter the workforce as maybe a seed or equipment salesperson or fertilizer representative,” said Griffith. “That type of program takes a little longer to get approval, so we will work on it during the first year with hopes to start in the fall of 2020.”

Griffith added that the agriculture industry in southern Illinois is strong and vibrant with a demand for the type of skilled workforce that will graduate from the College’s programs.

“We are seeing a demand in both the traditional agriculture fields and new trends locally with the Farmer’s Market scene. My hope is that people see that a career in agriculture goes beyond just traditional farming and that it can lead to career in finance, retail and so much more,” said Griffith.

That demand is what motivated John A. Logan College officials to develop the new Ag program. Acting Vice President for Instruction, Melanie Pecord believes that programs like this are not only good for John A. Logan College, but also the southern Illinois economy as well.

“This program will provide many opportunities for our students in a diverse and ever changing job market, “said Pecord. “I am excited the college can offer an Ag program to provide a variety of opportunities for our students whether they are working towards a Bachelor’s degree or an Associate in Science degree. It is always exciting when the college can implement new and exciting programs that are growing and thriving in the workplace.”

A sentiment that is echoed by Jackson County Farm Bureau Manager, Jessica Grammer.

“The area served by John A. Logan Community College has long needed a program for students entering the field of agriculture, “said Grammer. “The JALC district houses some great FFA programs, and it would be wonderful to see our local Ag students stay local, instead of having to attend other community colleges out of the area.”

Grammer added that agriculture students learn the most cutting-edge technology, along with food safety, mechanics, and sciences that develop leadership and communication skills that prepare them for the workforce.

“I know I speak for all of the local Farm Bureaus when I say we look forward to watching this program grow and succeed to educate the future of agriculture in southern Illinois.” Added Grammer.

For more information about the Agriculture program at John A. Logan College prospective students can contact Dr. Wayne Griffith at 618-985-2828, ext. 8055 or by email at waynegriffith@jalc.edu.