Alabama Farm Credit donates over $2,500 for agricultural education

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Alabama Farm Credit has donated $2,500 to Wallace State Community College's Farm and Ranch Management Program. From left are Mel Koller, Alabama Farm Credit CEO, Travis Kress, WSCC farm and ranch management instructor and farm manager, and Wes Rakestraw, dean of WSCC's Applied Technologies Division, at WSCC's Jack Hopper Forestry Building and Greenhouses in Hanceville, Ala.

CULLMAN, Ala. — Alabama Farm Credit celebrated “Giving Tuesday” by donating $2,500 to help Wallace State Community College expand its Small Farmer Training Program into the Farm and Ranch Management Program. A silent auction item the rural lending cooperative donated to the Wallace State Community College Future Foundation Luncheon, held on Nov.17, raised another $150.

The community education program prepares students to start or better manage their own farm, work as a farm manager or go into another agriculture-related field.

“Many of our students are transitioning to a second career in agriculture or returning to the family farm in retirement,” said Travis Kress, Wallace State Community College farm manager and instructor. “In a year, we cover pretty much all aspects of agricultural production — from understanding soils to how to grow, market your products, write a business plan and manage farm finances.”

The Small Farmer Training Program began in 2019 and focused on fruit and vegetable production for beginning farmers. Classes were taught from April to October — a typical growing season.

Big changes are coming in January, as the Farm and Ranch Management Program will launch classes that meet once a week for a month. The new à la carte approach includes more topics, from pruning fruit trees and ornamental plants to farm pond management for cattle producers.

“We’re expanding our offerings so we can help people in more sectors of the ag community and cover topics in more depth,” Kress said. “We’ll still cover fruit and vegetable production and are partnering with [the] Extension and other instructors to teach ranch management and other topics. Alabama Farm Credit’s funding allows us to hit the gas and move forward quickly instead of inch by inch. We also plan to offer free or reduced tuition and cover the cost of supplies and materials for some classes starting in the summer.”

The spring lineup includes five monthly classes that will be taught at Wallace State’s Hanceville campus on Monday evenings, the Oneonta campus on Tuesday evenings and online on Thursday mornings. The Hanceville campus will also host three three-hour classes and a field day.

“Ag producers are the lifeblood of our lending cooperative, and there’s always something new to learn in farming and ranching,” said Alabama Farm Credit CEO Mel Koller. “We’re honored to support a program that helps farmers build their skills, whether they’re experienced producers or just starting out.”

In addition to the community education program, Wallace State offers classes in agricultural production/horticulture and poultry science for college credit.

For more information, go to https://www.alabamafarmcredit.com/ or https://www.wallacestate.edu/programs/technical-division/farmer-training.

The spring class schedule is posted at https://www.wallacestate.edu/current-schedule under Career and Workforce Development on page 53.