Morrisville State prepares next generation for changing agriculture

MORRISVILLE, N.Y. — Embracing change was a common theme among presenters during the inaugural Agricultural Summit held at Morrisville State.

The event, which drew innovators and leaders from throughout the agriculture industry, focused on future goals and needs in agricultural education, as well as workforce development with both an academic and industry focus.

“Don’t just tolerate change or learn to live with it, but actually embrace change,” said Richard Ball, commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, in remarks opening the summit. “It might be a new piece of equipment. It might be a new way of doing business. It might be a different customer. Think outside of the box. …Unless you change something, you will end up in the same place.”

“It is important to have an open mind and to be able to solve problems in many different ways, not just how it has always been done,” said Taylor McNamara, a second-year student in Morrisville’s agricultural business program, who participated in a student success panel discussion. McNamara plans a future in educating young students about agriculture and advocating for sustainable and environmentally friendly practices.

Keynote speaker Zaid Kurideh, owner of Norwich Meadows Farm LLC, a certified organic farm in Norwich, also shared Ball’s and McNamara’s sentiment.

“Agriculture is not going to die. It is going to change and you have to embrace it,” he said. “You have to know people with tremendous skills. We need trained people. Agriculture is going to need people with skills.”

Morrisville State is taking another step forward in training agricultural leaders, announcing pursuit of its first Master of Science degree in agribusiness during the summit.

The online program, still in development, will prepare graduates to make agribusiness decisions that improve society by refining agricultural efficiency and increasing agricultural productivity throughout the food chain.

Also in the works is a four-year brewing science & technology degree, which will benefit the brewing industry by providing craft brewers to the growing field in New York.

“We are trying to train brewers in the practical applications of all elements of production,” said Micheal Coons, Morrisville State’s head brewer.

The college plans to add more brewing courses to those already in place, and eventually offer a craft beer & brewing minor in the fall of 2019.

Overall, the summit shed a bright light on the future of agriculture.

“I think we are at the edge of a renaissance in agriculture in New York State,” Ball said addressing a room of more than 80 participants, including students, faculty and staff. “I think I am more excited today about your opportunities than I have ever been in agriculture. We are doing a better job in agriculture than we have ever done and we need you to work hard to take this even further.”

Students are preparing to make that happen. During a panel discussion, seven students shared success stories about opportunities and doors that have opened for them, which are preparing them for their future careers.

“Hard skills come from activities and extracurricular experiences,” said Grace Book of Bliss, a senior in the agricultural business development bachelor’s degree program. “Morrisville gave me so much passion and so many different skills.”

Some of them came from internships, which panelists hailed as a highlight of their academic programs.

Through her summer internship at Morrisville State, McNamara was involved with planning and harvesting industrial hemp and learned a lot of different farming techniques.

“I did soil sampling and had the opportunity to work with industry leaders. I also learned a lot about collecting and gathering data,” she said.

Students lauded the many different courses and electives Morrisville State offers, which have broadened their skill sets and experiences.

“I specifically chose Morrisville based on the diversity of its programs,” McNamara said. “I had the opportunity to take courses like dairy and soil science.”

“You have a lot of opportunities to learn and to see real-world stuff,” said Jacob Wafler, an agriculture business development bachelor’s degree student from Wolcott, who plans to co-run his family’s commercial apple farm, Wafler Farms Inc., in Wolcott, with his brother Kyle Wafler ’17.

“I learned how to show a cow and got involved in the Livestock Club,” added Wafler, who also took elective courses in horticulture and agricultural engineering. “These were all experiences that added to my education.”

“Morrisville really opened my mind to what I could do,” said Collin Sullivan, a renewable resources bachelor’s degree student from Springville. “I have used every class here in some way or form.”

Following a luncheon that served Morrisville and locally produced vegetables, fruit, meat and dairy, the summit ended with tours of the college’s facilities that offer experiential learning opportunities in diverse settings.

For more information about Morrisville State, visit www.morrisville.edu.