Farming for Tomorrow: A quick guide to choosing an Ag school
Today’s agriculture school is not your dad’s agriculture school. Although fundamental skills such as agronomy and equipment operation are still the bread-and-butter of most post-secondary agriculture programs, many colleges and universities today are integrating these key subjects with a new emphasis on a technology-driven, information-based approach to farm management.
However, future farm managers are not the only ones who stand to benefit from this approach. Many of today’s program leaders say they no longer expect a certain kind of student; rather, they hope to see students from a number of backgrounds – be it business, technology, humanities or primary production – recognize the abundance of opportunities for their talents in the agriculture space.
Here are some of the innovations being made today in Prairie post-secondary institutions….
University of Manitoba’s Diploma in Agriculture
Farming today is, more than ever, a multidisciplinary career requiring farm managers to have a 10,000-foot view of the world while possessing a level of expertise in the processes going on deep below the soil surface where whole ecosystems form the basis of plant life and growth.
That is what the University of Manitoba (U of M) had in mind while redesigning its flagship two-year diploma in agriculture program. Although the revamped program, which is being introduced this fall, still teaches the agronomy skills that have become its trademark, those technical skills have been integrated into a much broader approach to farm management.
“Agriculture is changing, technology is changing, climate is changing. Everything is changing so quickly we have to ensure in our programs that we’re preparing students to respond to changes we’re seeing in our sector,” says Michele Rogalsky, director of the U of M School of Agriculture.
“We’re reducing some of the technical content and increasing the focus on decision-making, critical thinking and assessing knowledge and its validity so students can make informed decisions. Our focus is primarily geared to training farm managers who need knowledge and skills and are making decisions regarding production and business.”
One new course titled: Precision Agriculture – Technological Tools for Decision Making, will focus on modern precision farming tools and how to use the data they produce to help managers make informed decisions. Integrated Sustainable Agri-Food Systems is another new addition which traces food production and processing from the farm field or barn all the way to how food impacts the health of consumers.
The new approach has proven popular so far, with the School of Agriculture filling its 85-student quota this year and 20 hopefuls currently on the wait list. “Response has been really positive from the students and has also been really positive from our industry stakeholders,” says Rogalsky.