Potomac State Introduces New Sustainable Agriculture Entrepreneurship Major
Students enrolled in Potomac State College of WVU’s new SAGE (Sustainable Agriculture Entrepreneurship) program will gain hands-on experience working on the College farms and being involved with food, forestry and other production enterprises. Students will graduate with a two-year, career-oriented associate of applied science (AAS) degree and will be prepared to own and/or manage a farming enterprise. Pictured are students in the current Plant Science course, from left: Emma Palencar, Kindra Carr, Dylan Dunkel, Talon Myers, and James Propst Fedder.
Referred to as SAGE, an acronym for Sustainable Agriculture Entrepreneurship, Potomac State College of West Virginia University is pleased to announce this new major.
In this program, students will gain hands-on experience by working on the farms and being involved with food, forestry and other production enterprises. “We want students who can think outside the traditional box,” explains Plant Science Professor Donna Ballard, Ph.D. “For example, we want students to realize gardening is not just a food source for the family, gardening can be expanded into a money-making venture such as urban agriculture where rooftop gardens and rooftop bee hives are becoming prominent businesses.”
Students will earn a two-year, career-oriented associate of applied science (AAS) degree. Students graduating from this program will be prepared to own and/or manage a farming enterprise based on sound multi-faceted production systems. These systems will include large animal; poultry; agronomic, horticultural and high-tunnel crops; forest timber; non-timber products; and more. Students will also complete business courses in addition to agriculture and forestry course work.
Dr. Ballard emphasizes that this is the first degree of its kind within a 100-mile radius of Keyser. “With the ever growing world population and need for quality, safe food supplies, graduates of this program will be on the leading edge of farm-to-table food production,” she stated.
According to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of agricultural and food science technicians is projected to grow five percent from 2014 to 2024. Advances in technology and scientific knowledge related to food production will require a greater control of production and processing activities; therefore, increasing demands for these workers.
Potomac State College is centrally located in a multi-state region that has traditionally been engaged in diverse agricultural production. According to the West Virginia Office of the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistic Service, four of the top five West Virginia counties in terms of agriculture sales are Hardy, Pendleton, Grant, and Hampshire – all in the Eastern Panhandle and strong student bases for the College’s SAGE program.
Faculty members are currently working on a four-year bachelor of applied science SAGE degree and they anticipate approval to accept students for the fall 2018 semester. This degree will require students to think creatively regarding multiple farm enterprises and will include business management courses. Graduates will leave with a business plan in hand.
The College farms, totaling more than 800 acres, serve as academic and production resources. The College is in the process of purchasing property in the Fort Ashby Business and Technology Park along with a shell building to develop a food hub for the collection, processing and distribution of foodstuffs involving the community through a food market.