NDSCS Agriculture Program Students Excel at NACTA Conference

Ag students with awards

The North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS) Agriculture Program students had the opportunity to attend the NACTA (North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture) Judging Conference in Modesto, California from April 12-15, 2023. While there, the students competed in various competitions, such as Livestock Management, Livestock Judging, Equine Management, Soils, and more.

The NDSCS Agriculture students worked hard to prepare for the competitions, and their efforts paid off as they earned multiple individual and team awards. The students won Second Place, 2-year division in the Knowledge Bowl, Third Place, 2-year division in Crops Team, and Third Place, 2-year division in Ag Mechanics. Andrew Sip was named Third High Individual in the Ag Mechanics Contest, 2-year division.

During the trip, the students also had the chance to enjoy hands-on experiences and explore opportunities in agriculture. They toured Burroughs Family Farms, an organic almond, walnut, olive, and sheep farm that utilizes regenerative practices to restore land and soil health.

By sending teams to competitions like the NACTA Judging Conference, the Agriculture program provides students with an invaluable educational experience. “Trips like this allow students a unique opportunity to learn about Agriculture in different regions of the United States and test their knowledge in the areas they are studying. More importantly, they have the opportunity to expand their professional network.”, noted Craig Zimprich, Agriculture Associate Professor and Department Chair.

The NDSCS students who participated in the competitions included:

  • Andy Sip, Farm Management, Ada, Minn.
  • Cody Morrison, Farm Management, Hunter, N.D.
  • Grace Dinius, Agronomy & Ag Business, New England, N.D.
  • Carston Hamre, Ag Business, Audubon, Minn.
  • Katrina Quick, Farm Management & Agronomy, Borup, Minn.
  • Rose Wendell, Liberal Arts – Agriculture emphasis, Lamoure, N.D.
  • Eli Sorum, Animal Science & Precision Ag, Fergus Falls, Minn.
  • Will Steffes, Farm Management, Arthur, N.D.
  • Hunter Albert, Precision Agriculture Technician, Barnesville, Minn.
  • Gavin Mautz, Ranch Management, Garrison, N.D.

The NDSCS Agriculture Program provides students with a solid foundation of knowledge in the areas of Ag Business, Animal Science, Farm Management, Ranch Management, Precision Agronomy, and Precision Agriculture Technician. It is a hands-on program area that emphasizes practical learning experiences through lab and field activities, internships, and cooperative education experiences. Students also benefit from the college’s close working relationships with regional and national agricultural businesses, organizations, and state and federal agencies.

For more information about the NDSCS Agriculture program, visit NDSCS.edu/Ag.

Article written by NDSCS and submitted to external news outlets. 

NDSCS to offer two new Agriculture Degrees

NEW Ag programs available

North Dakota State College of Science will offer Associate in Applied Science degrees in Precision Agronomy and Precision Agriculture Technician starting in the fall of 2023. Approved by the State Board of Higher Education, the new degree programs are aimed at meeting industry needs and the growing demand among students looking to pursue emerging career opportunities in agriculture.

The Precision Agronomy degree is a two-year, 69-credit program that will prepare students to use precision technology to guide agriculture production decisions. “Graduates will have the ability to use technology like mapping to make the best agronomic choices on their farms or when working with a producer through an agronomy center,” said Craig Zimprich, chair of the Agriculture Department. NDSCS developed the program in response to industry demand for employees with expertise in agronomy and precision agriculture. Currently, the NDSCS Agriculture Department offers emphasis options in agronomy and precision agriculture. This new program will merge the options and expand into a standalone associate degree. The curriculum will include courses in plant and soil sciences, agriculture sales, field crop scouting, software, data management and business management. Zimprich believes the expanded curriculum and standalone degree will attract and graduate more students needed to meet the high workforce demand.

The Precision Agriculture Technician degree is a two-year, 69-credit program focused on agriculture equipment. Students will be trained in selling, installing, maintaining, and troubleshooting precision hardware and software on agriculture equipment. NDSCS worked with industry partners and heavy equipment dealerships to develop the program to meet their workforce needs. Zimprich explained that students will gain an agronomic background with a technical understanding of equipment to fill a void between the producer and the dealership. The curriculum will include courses in agronomy, sales and agriculture business, precision agriculture, and heavy equipment electrical and hydraulics. “When we talk to students about this program, their eyes light up because it’s ag and equipment. There’s a lot of students who like that idea,” said Zimprich.

First-year student Hunter Albert of Barnesville, Minn., will be one of the first graduates in the Precision Agriculture Technician degree program. “I’ve always wanted to be on the technology side of farming, working on equipment,” Albert said. “It’s where the future is in farming.” Sponsored by Titan Machinery, Albert plans to complete the degree requirements next spring.

To prepare for successful careers in the rapidly evolving agriculture industry, students in both new programs will receive hands-on training at the NDSCS Kosel Family Agriculture Land Lab, a 90-acre demonstration farm operated by the Agriculture Department, students, and industry partners. Students will also gain professional experience during a 400-hour paid internship between their first and second years of instruction.

In addition to the two new degrees, NDSCS will continue to offer an A.A.S. degree in Agriculture with emphasis options in farm management, ranch management, animal science, and ag business, along with a certificate in meat processing. More information about the degrees can be found online at NDSCS.edu/Ag.

Article written by NDSCS and submitted to external news outlets. 

College meat cutting programs start to fill up industry need

Student interview for AgWeek TV

On the first day of their internship at a small town meat locker, Alissa Metzger and Grace Lamberson were breaking down a hog carcass to cut into pork chops, roasts, and other cuts and packaging up orders for customers.

Using the large saw was “a little scary, I’m not going to lie,” Lamberson said. But the experience is the culmination of her other course work in meat processing at the North Dakota State College of Science. "It all adds up and starts making sense,” Lamberson said.

Lamberson and Metzger are a couple of the first students going through the meat cutting program at the college. Meat cutting programs are popping up to help meet the demand for skilled workers in a field that has seen renewed interest, especially after COVID-19 forced shutdowns at major meatpackers, forcing farmers to scramble for help.

Metzger and Lamberson are coming into the program from the culinary side, not the ag side. “I wanted to actually learn, like, how you actually break down those big carcass animals down to what we eat and what is on our plate,” Metzger said.

The North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, and two Minnesota schools — Ridgewater College in Willmar and Central Lakes College in Staples — have new meat cutting programs. Western Dakota Technical College in Rapid City, South Dakota, and Dickinson State University in western North Dakota also are adding programs.

Craig Zimprich, department chairman for agriculture at NDSCS used the term “desperation,” from the meat industry looking for workers. He said he has gotten a lot of calls from employers looking for students. Some of them are local lockers plants hoping looking for someone who might be able to eventually take over the business in a few years Zimprich said the nine-month meat cutting program can turn into “truly a lifelong career.”

Zimprich said he also has gotten calls from livestock farms that are interested in doing more of their own processing and marketing. And if someone already has a degree, just the meat cutting portion of the program could be done in one semester.

Zimprich said the program can be tailored to meet the career of a prospective student.

Metzger is working in a kitchen at an elder care facility and said she already has some job offers but isn’t quite sure yet where she really wants to apply her skills. Her original plan was to open a bakery but “that’s kind of changed now,” she said.

The NDSCS campus is about 50 miles south of the North Dakota State University campus. NDSU already had a meat lab with cutting equipment, so NDSCS and NDSU partnered on a grant to start the nine-month meat cutting program.

Zimprich said the grant also provided some scholarship money, and the North Dakota Beef Council also is paying for two students to go through the program. The program is starting with five students but Zimprich said there is room for about 14.

Building programs

While NDSU already had a meat lab that NDSCS could access, other schools are taking different approaches as their programs get rolling. Central Lakes College is offering a one semester course that is all in-person classes taught in the evenings at the Staples, Minnesota, campus by Jess Feierabend.

The main Central Lakes campus is in Brainerd but Staples is home to the school’s ag program and meat cutting fits into that. “So we try to involve a little bit of agriculture and a little bit of what meat production looks like from start to finish, so from farm to fork,” Feierabend said. “And we understand that a lot of students aren't going to use all of that philosophy but there's different spots within the industry that they will be able to work in.” The college is working with the Minnesota Farmers Union to obtain a mobile slaughter unit and plans to develop a retail module.

Feierabend said the eight students enrolled in the current semester range from an 18-year-old to a person in their 50s looking for a career change. The students were tasked with lining up an internship. In doing so, all of them were offered a job. “So instead of just going to the internship, they're virtually getting hired on the spot to help these guys out,” Feierabend said. “There is a huge demand for it right now.”

Ridgewater College is taking a very different approach. The lecture portion of the classes is all remote learning but again students must line up a business with meat cutting equipment to get the hands-on experience. “So the students can essentially take the classes wherever they are, wherever they want,” said Sophia Thommes, the meat cutting instructor at Ridgewater. With classes being remote, the college can serve students across a wide area. She even has a student in Florida. “Students can come from anywhere in the country that they want,” said Jeff Miller, dean of instruction at Ridgewater College.

Ridgewater currently has eight students but Thommes is expecting 15 to 20 students for the spring semester. Some of the current students already are working in the meat industry in some way but want to add a certificate to their resume. Others are coming in with zero experience. Ridgewater also plans more advanced courses. “This is really one certificate that will stack into a more advanced meat processing that will be coming next year,” Miller said. “And then a third certificate that will be the meat cutting entrepreneur.” First year students learn things such as safety, slaughtering, and ethical treatment of animals. “The student can either enroll in the full certificate or pick the courses that meet their needs,” Miller said. “Our goal is to really meet students where they’re at with this.”

'Dwindled away'

Manock Meats is in Great Bend, North Dakota, population 52, and a short drive from the NDSCS campus.

Steve Manock says he has been in the business since he was about 6 years old, when his dad bought the business. He bought it from his dad when he was 21 and has been running it for about 40 years.

Manock Meats is one of just two meat lockers left in Richland County, butchering livestock that sometimes come from more than 100 miles away. “When I was growing as a kid there was one in every town and they have just dwindled away over the years,” Manock said. “There was nobody to take them over.”

The lack of meat processing means that farmers who used to be able to schedule an animal a week or two in advance now might have to schedule a year or more out, sometimes before the animal is even born.

Manock says he is the only custom processor of poultry left in North Dakota and has butchered up to 450 birds in one day, but says he tries to keep it more manageable at 200 to 250 birds in one day.

But he also likes the variety that comes with processing many different animals.

He encourages other small meat processors into partnering with a college for interns. “They struggled on a few parts but then I said ‘here’s another one’ and by the end of the day they had it down pat already,” Manock said. “I give ‘em a straight A for today.”

Article written by John Beach for AgWeek and Inforum on November 7, 2022. 

Watch the AgweekTV episode here — NDSCS Meat Processing program highlighted at 10:36. 

Oybek Turayev

Oybek Turayev

Assistant Professor
Tech Center 49

NDSCS offering Meat Processing program

Meat Processing

North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS) is accepting applications for students interested in obtaining a certificate in Meat Processing, a new program, beginning Fall 2021. Students who enroll in the Meat Processing certificate program at NDSCS will have the gain skills and techniques needed for this high-demand career field.

This responsive and innovative program is a partnership between NDSCS and North Dakota State University (NDSU). Students will enroll at NDSCS and take 15 credits one semester, then spend the first 8 weeks of the following semester being trained at the NDSU Meats Laboratory and finish the semester with an internship at a small meat processing facility and/or retail stores.

“The long-term goal of this project is to increase the availability of new workers for local, retail, and small-scale meat processors by educating students through this collaborative certificate program” said Agriculture Department Chair Craig Zimprich. “Small meat processors are a vital link in the food supply and allow farmers, ranchers, and livestock producers to retain a greater portion of the live animals value locally.”

This work is supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Education and Workforce Development program, award number 2021-67037-34169, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Additional information about the program and how to enroll can be found online at NDSCS.edu/Ag.

NDSCS and Midwest Community College Partners Join Forces with NRCS

Agriculture Instruction

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) is partnering with North Dakota State College of Science and eight other Midwest community colleges to support hands-on student learning in the field, to develop future conservation-minded farmers and ranchers, and to cultivate more graduates interested in pursuing careers with NRCS.

Today, NDSCS President John Richman, together with representatives of the Community College Alliance for Agriculture Advancement (C2A3) and NRCS, held a virtual ceremony to formally sign a national memorandum of understanding to develop a cooperative framework to enhance and accelerate training and adoption of technologies and best practices for improved agricultural productivity and natural resources stewardship.

“We are extremely pleased to partner with NRCS to provide access for our students to new soil management and agronomic practices, resources and technical expertise,” said NDSCS Vice President for Academic Affairs Harvey Link. “This partnership recognizes the important role NDSCS plays in providing technical education in multiple agricultural areas. It will allow us to partner with other two-year colleges throughout the Midwest to share resources and best practices that will benefit our students, while also helping the NRCS further its mission.”

All C2A3 member institutions, including NDSCS, have land labs or college farms and are able to utilize their land resources for the implementation of conservation practices on the ground to help educate and inform students and producers. The goal of the cooperative agreement between the entities is to not only accelerate the adoption of conservation practices through the education of current, two-year agriculture students, but to also disseminate information to the broader community through field days and other college events and partnerships.

In addition, the colleges are utilizing the network to share resources, knowledge and expertise. Collectively, they are working on a grant through USDA’s North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, which seeks to increase awareness, knowledge and skills related to soil health, cover crops and no till agriculture. The development of content such as videos and case studies for the classroom is a critical component to help illustrate concepts of profitability, sustainability and productivity. These assets will be shared across the network for the benefit of all member institutions.

“Community colleges educate nearly half of all undergraduate students in this country and yet, our agriculture programs have been an under-utilized resource within USDA,” said Dr. Tracy Kruse, C2A3 board chair. “A majority of our students are the producers in fields. They are technicians in our local co-ops and implement dealers; and they are our agronomy and seed sales professionals. Through these efforts, we hope more of them will also become the soil health specialists and conservationists for local NRCS offices.”

The C2A3 collaboration was born out of a mutual desire to provide more ongoing education, training and demonstration projects to future farm producers and agricultural service providers with the goal of improving the health, and therefore the long-term productivity, resilience and sustainability of the soil.

“We hope that this pilot will grow over time to include more partners and more institutions,” said Jimmy Bramblett, deputy chief of programs for NRCS. “The more successful we are, the more likely we are to drive further innovation and adoption of practices and impact the long-term sustainability of our nation’s resources.”

In addition to NDSCS, 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), and Richland Community College (Decatur, Ill.).

For more information about C2A3, visit the organization’s website at agalliance.net.

Chandra Langseth

Chandra Langseth
Assistant Professor/Precision Agriculture Technician Program Coordinator
Tech Center 45

Daily News: Learning from the land

Ag Land Lab

By Frank Stanko

“One way or another, every student that we have will be impacted by this,” said Craig Zimprich, chair of North Dakota State College of Science’s agriculture department.

The pivotal project is the development of a land lab on 92.4 acres straight west of Walmart in Wahpeton. Previously farmed by the late Richard Kosel and his wife Mary, the land’s lease was donated to NDSCS by Linda Patterson. Not only is Patterson the Kosels’ daughter, she’s also an NDSCS alumni.

Read the full article online at wahpetondailynews.com.