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Ag students get quick start at RCC

Agriculture education has come a long way in just the past 10 years, thanks in large part to the evolution of technology.

Riverland has been a prime example of this, adding a variety of assets including a combine simulator for students.

These kinds of resources are especially valuable for students and instructors.

“The tools available to us apply to what we learn in the classroom to precision agriculture,” said Riverland ag instructor Nick Schiltz. “Our students are able to use applications and programs that are used by agronomists, crop professionals and farmers on a daily basis.”

Students using these resources for their education benefit from not just course work but hands-on experiences that make use of growing and existing technologies, as well as taking them to fields and test plots like the Sustainable Answer Acre just west of Lansing.

“It’s one of these parts of ag education that whenever you can make things hands-on, the more we are able to effectively teach and show students the same skills they would use in the real world,” Schiltz said. “Hands-on education approach, allowing them to see what the industry is using and doing at this time.”

Jordan Nielsen makes use of mapping software available at Riverland Community College for ag students. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Riley Fawver is a second-year student from Blooming Prairie, with a rich family history in agriculture. She’s been able to use what RCC offers to further her own education and contributions.

“The biggest thing that’s stood out is I’ve been able to get on and look at yield maps and see how it applies to a bigger scale,” said Fawver, who has her own garden at home as well as working with livestock.

A lot of what she’s been able to call on has a base in her time in Blooming Prairie.

“Blooming Prairie was actually pretty independent with a lot of their stuff,” Fawver said. “There are a couple of classes you can take at BP. Having the base in high school really helped with what I learned here.”

Jordan Nielsen, of Rose Creek, is in his first year at Riverland and although he hasn’t set a goal yet for future employment, he has seen the benefits of what Riverland has to offer.

It works especially well with his own background, where his dad has his own business in the form of Nielsen Agronomics.

“It’s really nice,” Nielsen said. “It’s really a hands-on aspect because then you can not only just learn in the classroom but see how it’s actually used in the real world.”

Like Fawver, this kind of background worked well with what he already knew to create a strong base.

“With my dad being an agronomist, it prepared me because of that,” Nielsen said.

But there is more to the student’s education than simple taking part in what Riverland has to offer. Through the first year courses visitors from the ag industry will come and speak to the students.

It’s a chance for both students and industry leaders to learn about each other.

“The relationship helps grow agriculture because we learn about data and electronics and software programs that are very real world,” Schiltz said. “It just gives them a taste.”