College’s ag program blossoming
GEORGETOWN, Del. — Dr. Daniele Kidd can’t help but grin when she talks to graduates of the Delaware Technical Community College’s production agriculture program and they express a hint of jealousy about not attending after a new campus farm was established.
“I just say, ‘You could always come back for another degree,’” said Kidd, who is the college’s applied agriculture department chairperson.
After a couple years of planning and gathering support from more than 20 state and Sussex County donors, the 4-acre farm complex opened at the south end of the Jack F. Owens campus in October 2017 with three high tunnel greenhouses, a hydroponic greenhouse and a 2,400-square-foot production building/packing house that is also used as a retail farm market selling what’s grown on the farm.
Two of the greenhouses are heated and one of the high tunnels is on a moveable track that can double its production area. There’s also two acres of field production on the farm complex. Prior to the new facility, Delaware Tech offered retrofitted hydroponic greenhouses to production agriculture students, which allowed for limited crop production.
Kidd said the college’s purpose in starting the farm was to have more hands-on learning opportunity outside the classroom for students in its Production Agriculture program, which comprises about 40 of the college’s 100 applied agriculture students.
With the farm in walking distance from the classroom, students get quicker access to real-life skills in planning, production, harvesting, marketing and selling what they grow.
“What it does is add to the student experience,” Kidd said. “Students are leaving here more prepared. It’s just added to the depth of the program.”
Through the winter, students manage tomato production in the hydroponic greenhouse and leafy greens and cole crops in two other greenhouses. In the field, more cole crops are planted along with garlic, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.
“Mimicking current production is of coarse our goal,” said Justin Grimminger, Delaware Tech’s farm manager. “We want them to see what it’s like on a commercial farm and the same way it’s done,. We try to keep this as productive as we can to have the supply and keep our students engaged.”
In part of the college’s older greenhouse, Grimminger and students have a small hydroponic herb growing station and also are experimenting with growing sprouts.
“We’re always trying to try new things and be ahead of the game,” he said.
Christel Folke, the college’s former farm manager an now an applied agriculture instructor said the farm has made a big difference in students’ active learning.
“I’ve seen a tremendous amount of learning in the greenhouses,” Folke said. She said despite a teacher’s best efforts to explain a concept in a classroom, “it’s nothing compared to actually going out and seeing it.”
Kidd said with only two years of using the new campus farm in the college’s instruction, its first students are now graduating and heading on to full-time careers.
“Students are at the center of everything we do,” she said. “We need to get them working in whatever aspect of a career that they’re going to do.”
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925