By LEE JUILLERAT
For the Capital Press
KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. -- A Southern Oregon community college is growing its agricultural roots.
Klamath Community College has announced plans to develop an on-campus farm and partner with Oregon State University to offer degrees in agricultural sciences at KCC's Klamath Falls campus.
Representatives from KCC, OSU and school districts in Klamath and Lake counties Friday announced the start of a pilot program that will allow students to earn up to 11 credits in high school, attend KCC's agricultural science program and transfer to OSU's online ag sciences program while working and being monitored by KCC staff.
During ceremonies signing the agreement, KCC President Roberto Gutierrez and Dean Arp, OSU's dean of agricultural sciences, said the partnership is unique because it combines the university's online courses with the college's classroom setting. Arp said the once traditional pattern of having high school graduates spend four years at a university is less common, with most students transferring to OSU from community colleges or other universities.
Arp said the program could help encourage young people to pursue ag-related careers. Noting the average age of people in agriculture is between 58 and 62, he said, "We need to have the training, schools and skills and the opportunities to continue with our tradition."
The pilot program will also benefit students in the ag-based community of Lakeview, which is 100 miles from Klamath Falls. Lakeview High School already has several agricultural-related classes and recently signed agreements with KCC for college credit classes.
Willie Riggs, director of OSU's Klamath Basin Research and Extension, termed the partnership a "big deal. Nobody else has ever done it."
The agreements follows plans in March to develop an operational farm on 25 acres of the KCC campus. Duren said about 22 acres will be used to grow alfalfa and will be planted later this spring. Three acres will used for an orchard, beginning with apple trees and adding cherry, plum and pear trees. He said profits from the sale of alfalfa will be used to buy heifers and breed cows as part of the college's beef and livestock programs.
"I've been wanting to do this for a long time. It's the thing we needed to take our program to the next level," he said, noting the facilities will provide hands-on training that will supplement classroom studies.
"You can tell the students this is what it looks like," Duren said, using calving as an example. "It's not the same when you're actually there."
When the culinary program is operating, he said students will be able to butcher, process and prepare beef raised on campus. Duren said the range of classes includes forage productions, beef and livestock management, horticulture along with agricultural economics and marketing.
"Unless you learn the theoretical principles it's just dumb luck. And I'm not into dumb luck," he said of the importance of classroom studies. "You get a deeper understanding. It is our hope when students leave here they have some useful, marketable skills."
"Agriculture is a major component of our community and our region, and we are confident this program will not only benefit the college and our students but the entire community as well," KCC's Gutierrez said in a prepared statement.
Duren had praise for Gutierrez, saying his support for the on-campus farm and cooperative program with OSU "speaks volumes about his investment to students and the community."