Natural resources program

NORTHEAST COMMUNITY COLLEGE agriculture student Logan McKeon of Stanton speaks during a Cover Crop Field Day presentation last fall at the Northeast farm while fellow student presenters Darcey Simonsen of Lyons (left) and Jenny Lawver of Friend listen. The field day is one activity that will have added emphasis in a new natural resources degree program this year at Northeast.

Northeast Community College is offering a new agriculture degree this fall, associate of science in natural resources.

Dean of Agriculture, Math and Science Corinne Morris said this brings the number of distinct agriculture programs at Northeast to 12, ranging from agronomy to animal science, and from precision ag to horticulture and golf course management.

Natural resources is designed as a transfer program for students who desire to earn a bachelor’s degree, but it can also lead to a good job with no further education.

Ag faculty members Robert Noonan and Sarah Sellin will teach most of the classes in the new program, with the assistance of biology instructor Erin Kucera. Noonan said he has already spoken with some students interested in the new program.

“As soon as the incoming students see the jobs that are out there, that are ag related but with more of a conservation focus, I think we’ll get even more interest,” Noonan said. “I don’t think it will take very many years and we will have quite a few students in this program.”

Sellin said they started discussing the possibility of a natural resources program last fall with representatives of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). She said Northeast already had most of the classes required for the program, so it was an easy addition to the department. For the natural resource program, Noonan will teach classes in forage and grassland production, entomology, advanced fertilizers and crop chemicals. Sellin’s classes for the new program will include introduction to natural resources, water resources and agri-ecology.

Graduates of a natural resources program may work for such organizations as Pheasants Forever, Whitetails Unlimited or Ducks Unlimited, Sellin said.

Conservation agencies such as NRCS and natural resource districts would also have employment opportunities for students with natural resources degrees, as would many private businesses.

Sellin said she knows of one student who is considering dual degrees in criminal justice and natural resources to work as a game warden.

Noonan said there is a growing interest in conservation.

“Not only can we maintain our soil health,” he said, “we can improve it, we can bring it back to where it was through these soil conservation practices.”

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