Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

SMC creating agricultural business associate degree

01/27/2020 - 10am

Southwestern Michigan College’s Fall 2020 schedule introduces an Associate of Applied Science agricultural business degree.

SMC partnered with MSU in 2015 to offer certificates in agricultural operations and fruit and vegetable crop management through its Institute of Agricultural Technology.

Stacey Rocklin, MSU Ag Tech program coordinator at SMC, said, “MSU has a four-year agribusiness management degree focusing on commodities and financing, that higher-level, not-on-the-farm agricultural business. Our students want an introductory amount on agriculture, but they also want to be able to go home and run the farm. Or, they know they want to work in agriculture, but in fertilizer or seed sales. So, we’re giving them a different major option focused on business on the SMC side, put together with MSU agriculture courses.”

“This program is not intended for students to come to SMC for their first year, then transfer to the four-year ag business degree at MSU,” Rocklin said. “It is intended for students who want to stay in the area, then do the business degree at Ferris State or go right into the industry after two years. We’re doing the pilot program here at SMC.”

When Rocklin goes into high schools to recruit students, pie charts accompany her showing where agricultural jobs are found.

“Fifty to 55 percent of jobs in agriculture are in business,” she said. “We don’t need everybody to be a farmer, but there are all these other things for which they need the common language of agriculture to talk to growers to help them solve problems. If growers can talk to them, they might also trust them, even if the student never grows a plant or animal.”

The new degree consists of 34 MSU credits in farm management, agricultural regulation, compliance and safety, a professional internship, training and pruning plants, horticulture, irrigation systems, weed management, soil science, entomology and plant pathology.

About 30 SMC credits encompass written and oral communications (seven credits), mathematics and social science (seven credits), biological science or chemistry (four credits), small business management and introduction to computer technology (six credits) and two electives (six or seven credits) from accounting principles, management principles, business law, supervision and marketing.

“This is a different program,” Rocklin said, “but it’s still set up for two years of hands-on learning, then going into the industry. It’s not as theoretical as (MSU’s) four-year degree. We’re trying to serve students who really want to work in agriculture, but want the practical knowledge to get started, with the science behind it.”

For more information about SMC’s agribusiness degree, contact Rocklin at (269) 782-1291 or srocklin@swmich.edu.