Agriculture is a big player in the eastern Oregon economy. More than 37 percent of the workforce in Umatilla County is either directly or indirectly employed by the agriculture industry. And farm sales in Umatilla County exceed $1 billion annually. As the industry continues to grow and become more technologically advanced, producers are finding that working together with a local community college is a wise investment in fortifying their employee teams. The Blue Mountain Community College agriculture department works closely with the eastern Oregon and southeastern Washington region’s ag industry.
Training and education is built to suit the needs of agriculture. In the last year, crop producers, irrigation specialists, suppliers and others have worked with BMCC to provide a series of short workshops in specialty areas to advance the knowledge and skills of those already in the workforce. Eight workshops were developed on topics ranging from agricultural safety to soils, irrigation design to base stations and controls, moisture monitoring and remote sensing to managing crop production through proper use of irrigation technology. One workshop focused on welding. The workshops were scheduled through November and February on Fridays for four hours each.
The format of these workshops met the industry need both in length and the “offseason” time of year.
Each of the four workshops in February were delivered using Internet technology (Zoom) which allowed students to benefit from the classes without having to travel. Students ranged in age from 16-75 and participated from as far away as Parma, Idaho, and Othello, Wash. Most workshops averaged 18 participants.
BMCC has plans to continue these workshops. And with continued input from ag industry managers and their BMCC ag advisory board, plans to expand the curriculum to include more topics and students next winter.
In the meantime, BMCC’s Precision Irrigated Agriculture Facility, located on the Oregon State University Hermiston Agricultural Research and Experiment Center, and the Facility for Agricultural Resource Management on the BMCC Pendleton campus has traditionally formatted courses that focus on a long list of agricultural topics. Traditional and nontraditional students know that BMCC is connected with industry employee managers, and BMCC is connecting these students with the education they need to keep up with an agriculture industry that is changing every day.
Anne Livingston is the director of Marketing for Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton.