Nestled at the base of the Blue Mountains in eastern Oregon, Blue Mountain Community College has one of only three postsecondary two-year agriculture programs in the state. BMCC's three agriculture instructors have built a well-rounded program with first-class instruction, a focus on hands-on, practical education, and strong community support. The result is one of the top postsecondary agricultural education programs in the United States.
"Our philosophy is hands-on and hands-in agricultural education," said Nick Nelson, one of the agriculture instructors at BMCC. The program maintains a 100-acre working farm, and involves students in all aspects of its management and maintenance. Although total agriculture program enrollment is 115, each class is capped at a low number of students to allow one-on-one interaction and advising. All the instructors in the BMCC agriculture program maintain an open-door policy and evolve from instructors to advisors to mentors as their students mature through the program and continue on to four year institutions or to start their own agriculture enterprises.
One reason Nelson believes BMCC's agriculture program has been so successful is because instructors are always on the lookout for new courses that will captivate student interest. They recently created a course in agriculture sales and auctioneering that culminated with students hosting and running a surplus auction. BMCC is also the first institution in Oregon to have a state-approved stock dog class, which teaches students and working dogs effective livestock handling techniques.
Another important factor in BMCC's success is the continual professional self-improvement pursued by the three instructors. They not only keep abreast of advances in agricultural technology, but in educational pedagogy related to non-traditional and adult learners, constantly tweaking their teaching to better reach their core audiences. They maintain an active role in a host of state and national professional organizations, both agricultural and educational, and use these opportunities to become leaders in the profession.
Also important is the BMCC Agriculture Department's community involvement and strong advisory committee. "Our students, staff and program are the success they are due in great part to the community and agriculture industry that supports us," said Nelson. The department's community extends well beyond the borders of Pendleton, or even the state, since thirty percent of its students are not from Oregon. "After graduation these students return home and become our best recruiters and supporters,"said Nelson.
"I am proud of the impact the BMCC agriculture program has on our region and on the state," said John Turner, BMCC president. "The program is well-known and respected by the entire agri-business community. Agriculture is one of the foundational programs of the college and its success is largely due to the superb instructors at BMCC."
As the 2012 Region I Outstanding Postsecondary/Adult Agricultural Education Program award winner, BMCC's agriculture department was awarded a two-year lease on a Toyota Tundra, presented by Campbell Toyota during the annual BMCC Boxing Blowout.
The NAAE Postsecondary/Adult Agricultural Education Program award is sponsored by Toyota as a special project of the National FFA Foundation. For more information about this and all other NAAE awards, visit http://www.naae.org/awards/applications/.
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