Foundation grant helps launch six Riverland agriculture programs
Riverland Community College is positioning itself to be a Midwest leader for training students for agricultural jobs.
The Hormel Foundation announced a $263,200 grant to Riverland Wednesday morning to help launch the Center for Agriculture and Food Science, an agriculture technology “center of excellence” at the college’s Austin campus.
“We can develop one of the biggest agriculture and food science two-year schools in the Midwest,” Hormel Foundation chairman Gary Ray said during a press conference in the Town Center building. “We sit right here in the farm belt of some of the richest farmland and have some of the best agriculture in America right here in our county. And why not have a better opportunity to form a partnership with Riverland to enable kids who are interested in agriculture to be able to secure a degree and possibly go on to a four-year degree.”
Riverland will debut six new ag-based programs at its Austin campus this fall, including precision agriculture, food science, food science technology, agricultural sciences, biotechnology and agribusiness. These programs join Riverland’s established farm business management program, one of the college’s most popular programs, according to school leaders.
After years of discussion, Riverland president Adenuga Atewologun was excited to see the plan come to fruition. “I jumped up, I was very happy,” he said. “This is something that’s been in the making for about two years and to see it happen so quickly in the last one or two weeks, we just cannot thank the foundation enough.”
Along with Riverland’s associate degrees, the programs will include opportunities for students to continue on to earn four-year degrees through a partnership with Minnesota State University, Mankato for food science technology, biotechnology and agricultural science programs. A similar pathway for agronomy has been established with Southwest Minnesota State University and a pathway in agriculture teacher education is under development.
The expanded ag program follows a path set by Riverland’s 2013 strategic plan, dubbed “The Blueprint for Excellence,” which identified agriculture as a top priority over the years ahead and identified Austin campus as the anchor site for the programs that will serve students across the region.