Chesapeake College launches a new two-year degree program in Agriculture this fall. The program, which will be offered pending approval from the Maryland HIgher Education Commission (MHEC), and was developed in response to community needs, will be the first, and only, two-year agriculture program in Maryland. The goal of the program is to prepare graduates to work in the largest industry on the Eastern Shore, either by growing crops for market or working in the extensive variety of industries that support Eastern Shore agriculture. Students can enroll in the spring for courses beginning in August, 2016.
The program started as a conversation with a 40-person focus group of regional farmers, support professionals, policymakers, and educators, and quickly grew into a full, two-year curriculum. Intensely practical in focus, the Associate of Applied Science degree emphasizes soil science, horticulture, conventional and organic growing practices, agribusiness, agricultural policy, entrepreneurship, small business skills, and emerging technology. Students can choose to concentrate in conventional agriculture or in sustainable agriculture, a distinction raised by farmers who consulted on program development. By choosing courses in advanced agribusiness, sustainability, or food systems, students can differentiate their pathways to the degree. All students will be required to participate in a supervised internship with a regional farm or agricultural industry of their choosing.Program development was conducted in consultation with a wide variety of agricultural partners from across the Eastern Shore, including the University of Maryland and the UM Extension. Dr. Nicole Fiorellino, a post-doctoral associate in Environmental Science and Technology at the University of Maryland College Park, was a principal architect of the program, and brought her personal expertise as a soil scientist to the list of courses. She also leveraged her connections to the university, local producers, and Extension offices to make sure that the program included courses that would be beneficial to Eastern Shore growers and support industries.
“The ‘Introduction to Agriculture’ class is exciting because it will feature members of the local agriculture community as guest lecturers,” said Fiorellino, who hopes to teach the class in the fall, 2016 semester. “The course is designed to spark a student's interest in the agriculture program and provide an opportunity for students to build internship or employment relationships with speakers.”
Conversations continue with both the University of Maryland and the University of Delaware to establish transfer pathways. Because the program is not a traditional transfer program, students will need to work carefully with a dedicated agriculture advisor to ensure transferability.
Lucie Hughes, Vice President of Advancement for Chesapeake College, grew up on the Shore and understands agriculture well: her family ran a John Deere dealership on the Lower Shore. “I’m very excited about the prospects for this program,” Hughes said. “It will allow students to learn about the most important industry on the Eastern Shore without leaving home, and it will help the region retain its agricultural character. We’re excited to be the first community college in Maryland to make this happen.”
Chesapeake introduced the program with a free screening of the award-winning film "Farmland" on March 31. Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Joseph Bartenfelder praised Chesapeake's degree program as a boost to agriculture in the state and region.
See the Agriculture Program brochure.