The agriculture and natural resources program at Walla Walla Community College (WWCC) is thriving, thanks in part to the recent acquisition of 16 acres to house the cattle herd as well as the development of several four-year degree programs, Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) in Ag Systems and a BAS Ag Systems – Ag Business concentration. Through the program’s hands-on approach to learning and the one-on-one relationships between students and instructors, a new crop of passionate and qualified graduates is leaving WWCC prepared to head back into the agriculture industry.
WWCC student Kurtis Klein, a fifth-generation wheat farmer from Edwall, Wash., experienced those benefits. “I came down to Walla Walla Community College to complete my associates in the Ag Business as well as in Plant and Soil Science. I have enjoyed being a part of a community college because of the personal relationships I have had with instructors and hands-on learning I've done in the field.”
Part of that field learning came at the end of May 2023 when Kurtis and seven fellow students participated in an agriculture and natural resources tour funded by a donation from AgWest Farm Credit. They toured the state of Washington and stopped at multiple operations to experience all different types of agriculture, from a vertically integrated dairy operation to a state-of-the-art sawmill. The visit even included a chat with legislators at the state capitol and culminated with a tour of the AgWest headquarters in Spokane. “It has been really cool just to be involved in agriculture and the processes that I can take back home and use as well as learning other forms of ag that I didn't really know a whole lot about – but it is still agriculture. It's all similar in some way or another,” said Klein.
Walla Walla Community College Ag and Natural Resources students got a tour of the AgWest Headquarters and presented what they learned on their tour to AgWest employees.
Students Anna Pippins and Alexis Atencio also attended the tour. With hopes of becoming veterinarians in the future, both plan to complete their Associate of Applied Science-Transfer degrees in Pre-Veterinary Medicine at WWCC and then transfer to vet school. Both obtained internships this summer working at a cattle embryology practice in the Pasco area, due in part to a recommendation from their animal science instructor. “This program has opened so many doors for me, especially getting my internship… learning about artificial insemination and embryo transfer,” said Pippins. Atencio added, “Working with the instructors here in a small facility has been really nice. You are able to build a one-on-one connection with them and figure out what your goals are for your education and how you can become successful.”
Students observe embryo transfer work being done on the school’s cattle herd.
Contrary to common perception, community colleges are not all about two-year degrees. WWCC offers several four-year programs, including BAS in Agricultural Systems. Darren Saum is taking advantage of this program and is in his fourth year of earning his degree. “I chose Walla Walla Community College over other four-year universities. It's a fraction of the price, has smaller class sizes and you get that same high-level education . . . You also get to build a more one-on-one relationship with your instructors compared to universities.”
AgWest Farm Credit is proud to partner with educational institutions like Walla Walla Community College to help support and develop the next generation of agriculture professionals.