Piedmont Tech to Offer Diversified Agriculture Degree

Piedmont Technical College now offers a pathway to a career in agriculture that can be found nowhere else in South Carolina. Beginning in the fall of 2011, the college will be offering an associate degree in diversified agriculture, the only degree of its kind in the state.

The new degree has been the goal since the program began in 2009. The agriculture curricula began with a basic and an advanced diversified agriculture certificate. The basic certificate will continue to be offered.

“This is going to be particularly good for my students who want a two-year degree and then to go to work,” said Hugh Bland, agriculture instructor. “It carries a little more weight than a certificate does.”

“We developed this associate degree in diversified agriculture, which is the first in the state of South Carolina, and aligned it with the diversified agriculture bachelor’s degree from the Abraham Baldwin Agriculture College in southern Georgia,” said Keith Lasure, dean of engineering and industrial technology. “Hugh and Aaron (Wood, horticulture program coordinator) are both working with ABAC and Clemson to maximize the number of courses that will transfer to either college or university.”

According to the S.C. Department of Commerce, agriculture and forestry represent the largest industrial cluster in South Carolina. Together, they have a direct and indirect economic impact of $33.9 billion a year, provide $7.5 billion in labor income and create and support almost 200,000 jobs in the state. The Saluda County Center was originally chosen to house the new program because of the rich agricultural history of Saluda. The degree program will remain based in Saluda County, but will work more closely with the horticulture program to meet the needs of the students.

“Agriculture is a big part of the state’s economy, but it is especially important in our seven-county area,” said Lasure. “We felt that Saluda would be a good location for this program which is designed to fully prepare students for the demands of careers in modern agriculture. And the support we have received from the community has been wonderful.”

Lasure said the local farms have allowed the students to come experience working farms. He also stated that agreements have been signed with Derrick Equipment allowing students the opportunity to learn from and use several pieces of farm equipment at the Saluda campus.

“Many of the local farmers have told Hugh that their farm is his lab and he is welcome to bring his students any time he needs to,” Lasure said. “That’s where the students can get the real first-hand experience because they’re out there every day in the real world trying to make that farm a success.”

The program offers courses such as animal science, basic farm maintenance, field crop production, agriculture economics and agriculture marketing. Students are also involved in cooperative work experiences for hands-on training at local farm and industry operations. The degree will add general education courses to the curriculum.

The horticulture technology program at Piedmont Technical College, which falls under the agriculture umbrella, offers a wide range of opportunities from a one-year certificate to a two-year associate degree. A diversified agriculture program will expand the offerings for those interested in a career in the agriculture field.

“Hugh and Aaron both have extensive backgrounds in both horticulture and agriculture,” Lasure said. “There are some horticulture courses that are the same courses taught in the agriculture program that students can take in Greenwood. If you’re dealing with soils in agriculture and soils with horticulture, it’s still a soils course.”

Lasure and Bland both said that the students currently enrolled in the program and students looking to enter the program are excited about the opportunity that the new degree will provide.

“I’m excited about the fact that we have been able to reach this milestone with the program,” said Lasure. “I’m excited for Saluda and I’m excited for the students. It creates a pathway that no one else in the state has.”

For more information on the diversified agriculture program, contact Bland at (864) 445-3144 or e-mail at bland.h@ptc.edu. For more information on the horticulture program, contact Wood at (864) 941-8671 or e-mail at wood.a@ptc.edu.