By Dr. James Selgrath, Professor of Agribusiness & Animal Science, Bakersfield College
“Summertime, when the livin’ is easy, fish are jumping and the cotton is high.” So starts the song “Summertime” from the opera Porgy and Bess. For those involved in agriculture in the central valley, fighting drought and summer heat, living is anything but easy. Early mornings caring for plants or animals are part of everyday agricultural life. Agriculture educators are also busy in the summertime. Teaching summer school, writing grants, reflecting on the previous semester in order to develop new curriculum, and preparation for upcoming classes. It is also a time to reflect upon the positives in the department and move forward.
The Bakersfield College Agriculture Department is truly a positive source for reflection. Five years ago, the department consisted of five full-time faculty. Since Kern County is recognized as one of the largest agricultural counties in the world, the need for more faculty to meet local industry educational requirements was apparent. To answer that need, the department has actively grown and now consists of eleven full time and twelve adjunct faculty. The increase in staff has allowed our department to expand its efforts in the early college program and develop new pathways to student success.
The excitement is evident in the department. With the expansion and funding of the Mechanized Agriculture program, our college is better positioned to meet the need for Heavy Equipment Operators and Engine Repair personnel. Our exciting new Food Science and Technology program will bring food production safety and innovation to the forefront of our department, as well as allowing Bakersfield College to produce its own brand of olive oil. The Forestry group is rewriting the program’s curriculum to serve the need for urban foresters in order to continue to be strong in the areas of forestry and recreation. A recent article in “Hispanic Education Outlook” magazine identified the Agriculture Business program as one of the top ten in the nation. Bakersfield College was the only 2-year program mentioned in the article and it indicates how progressive and active the Agriculture Business program has become. Grant funding is allowing the department to modernize the educational farm on campus, with new irrigation systems, animal handling equipment, and new crop systems that will allow our students to be at the forefront of agricultural technology. The present programs offered by the department are listed below.
Food Science and Technology
Forestry and Natural Resources
° Crops Emphasis
° Horticulture Emphasis
And the future of the department is very bright! The construction of the new agriculture building is scheduled to begin in the near future. The new facilities are designed to contain laboratories for all our programs, including a tissue culture lab. The building will also have new technology to support distance learning opportunities, as well as the latest in computer laboratories for the Agriculture Business classes. The new Horticulture area will have modern greenhouses and be able to provide a complete hands-on educational experience for students.
Bakersfield College’s Agriculture Department is a dynamic and growing entity in agriculture education. The excitement felt by the faculty is also felt by the students. The past year has been difficult for all of us. But even then, there are positive outcomes from the experience. The Agriculture Department is now capable of teaching the majority of its classes in an online environment in addition to being geared up for distance learning opportunities. But most exciting to many of the students is the ability to attend classes on campus in fall 2021. The feeling of being able to interact directly with students is positive for both faculty and students in the department.
The Agriculture Department at Bakersfield College is looking forward to continuing to meet the needs of our students and our business stakeholders in agriculture. The expansion of our faculty, the modernization of our curriculum with industry input, the modernization of our facilities and the incorporation of new programs bodes well for the department to continue leading the way in educating students for the needs of agriculture today and in the future.
If you want to learn more, visit BakersfieldCollege.edu.