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Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Ivy Tech students, from left, Ashley Franke and Rebecca Marshall get instruction from Kelli Kreider, chairwoman of the school’s agriculture program, during a class Thursday.

Ag courses part of Ivy Tech for first time

– Creating an agriculture program good enough to compete with one of the state’s largest universities won’t happen overnight, but two new classes have begun at Ivy Tech with hopes of providing students local access to agriculture education.

The first semester of classes includes two courses at Ivy Tech Community College Northeast – introduction to agriculture and Agricultural data management.

Both are taught by Kelli Kreider, who also is chairwoman of the agriculture department.

Kreider is a one-woman band, managing the department and teaching the back-to-back courses for the inaugural class of seven students.

“I have a love for agriculture and a passion for education, so this is kind of the perfect job for me,” she said.

Kreider, 27, is a native of Whitley County where her family owns a grain and livestock farm.

She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Purdue University. She said she hopes the new Ivy Tech program will make it possible for local graduates to compete with students from her alma mater for agriculture-related jobs in northeast Indiana.

“There’s really been nothing up here in this area of the state in terms of agriculture-business sort of education,” Kreider said. “We’re still in the planning stages for what this program will look like in the coming years, but it is coming along.”

Students can work toward a two-year associate degree or can take the basic courses toward the associate degree and then complete a bachelor’s degree at Purdue University by transferring credits, she said.

“I’ve had conversations with the students who are enrolled right now, and these are all students who want to stay around here and don’t want to have to travel away from their families, so this is the perfect place for them,” she said.

James Green, 28, is among the students in the first class.

Green came to Fort Wayne after serving in the Army and began looking for a place to study technology.

“Last November when I started looking, the only option that I knew of was Purdue in West Lafayette, and I had just got back and wanted to stay in this area,” Green said. “It worked out really well when I found out about the program here.”

Green said he plans to learn as much as he can about the technology side of agriculture, including software programs, benefit farming, GPS systems and other computer-based data.

Although the introductory classes are basic so far, Green said he’s happy about the small-class learning environment.

“I think everyone in here is interested and really passionate about it,” he said. “It’s not something to take just because you need the credits, and I think everyone in here takes it seriously.”

Not to mention the classes are less expensive than spending money on room and board at a larger university, he said.

“All the bigger schools are wicked expensive now, and getting these early classes out of the way have a huge impact financially,” Green said.

John Morton of Columbia City is another of Kreider’s students this semester.

For more than a dozen years, Morton, 41, has worked at Shade Trees Unlimited in Columbia City. Although he enjoys his work, Morton said his decision to attend agriculture courses at Ivy Tech was fairly simple.

“I’ve been a tree farmer for quite a long time,” Morton said. “I was looking for a chance to use my back less and my brain more.”

Before he learned about Ivy Tech’s program, he was considering courses elsewhere but was pleased to learn about a program close to home.

“The potential is huge around here. I’m honestly surprised that (Ivy Tech) didn’t have this available already,” Morton said. “There’s farming everywhere, … and there are jobs available that have got to be filled.”

As the program continues to grow, Kreider hopes to add courses in animal science, horticulture, agriculture-business, soil science and agriculture-sales – with plans to eventually offer a bachelor’s degree.

Until that point, Kreider plans to help her students make connections in Allen County and the surrounding areas for internships and job experience.

“The students know that they’ll have to compete with students from other bigger colleges and universities, so we’re going to focus on teaching them to market themselves,” she said. “I’m really focused right now on creating local relationships in the community so we can set the students up with internships.”