ACC Positions To Expand Award-Winning Horticulture Program
The acquisition of 47 acres of land has provided Alamance Community College’s Horticulture Technology program with a huge expansion certain to be a game changer in how and what students are taught.
On June 25, the College’s Board of Trustees voted to use a donation to purchase 47 acres of undeveloped land on South Jim Minor Road in Haw River, about four miles from the main Carrington-Scott campus.
“This will allow us to have a true Horticulture lab facility,” said Justin Snyder, Horticulture Technology Department Head. “We can improve the quality of instruction our students are receiving, and make the labs and classes we teach more like a real world scenario. Our goal is to produce highly qualified students ready to join the local workforce, as well as support the local green industry companies. This land will allow us to better meet that goal.”
The funds to buy the land came from an anonymous donor. In late 2014, the donor approached ACC about securing land for the College’s use in the Hawfields area. Ultimately, 47 acres on Jim Minor Road in Mebane will be purchased from William "Bill" and Nancy Covington of Mebane, who own and operate Covington Dairy on NC 119.
“The donor expressed a desire to preserve land for the purpose of education, specifically horticulture, but also forestry, agriculture and related purposes,” explained Carolyn Rhode, Executive Director of the ACC Foundation. “The donor was pleased with Horticulture’s current partnership with the Alamance County Agricultural Extension Department and hopes that this land will enable further joint activities.”
ACC’s Justin Snyder met with the donor and outlined how the land could be used as an outside lab for his students to practice and learn skills in landscape irrigation, turf grass management, equipment operations, arboriculture practices, and nursery production. Currently the College’s ability to offer these classes is limited.
Space for lab facilities has long been a problem for the Horticulture program, even as its state and national profile has risen in student competitions against dozens of four-year university programs and other community colleges. The department is landlocked by parking lots and the interstate. One example provided by Snyder cites turfgrass instruction currently limited to using a parking lot island at 10 square feet each; ideally the area for instruction should be a minimum of 1,000 square feet. Another challenge has forced students to practice skills in landscape irrigation by laying equipment on parking lot asphalt.
Said Snyder: “This very generous land donation has instantly solved these and so many other barriers to the kind of instruction we need to do.”
“We are appreciative of the confidence that the donor has placed in the College for carrying out this vision to provide additional educational opportunities for the citizens of Alamance County,” said Scott Queen, Executive Vice President at ACC. “Our thanks also go to the Covingtons who made this purchase possible. The land will provide Justin Snyder with the means necessary to take ACC’s Horticulture program to a whole new level.”
ACC’s Horticulture program has now gained advantages in its ability to:
- Teach location-specific lessons that involve the need for trees, flat land, and areas for irrigation and nursery instruction and practice
- Continue partnerships with other state and local groups--such as Alamance County Extension, NC Nursery and Landscape Association—to create opportunities to train individuals interested in the green industry
- Utilize space to offer continuing education classes to individuals interested in small fruit and vegetable production
- Increase potential to partner with other college departments, such as Culinary Arts, Biotechnology, and others.
“I'm excited about so many new opportunities,” said Dr. Gatewood. “Maybe organic farming or enhancing our forestry offering. With the emphasis today on nutrition and healthy eating, there are great possibilities in the area of food science. Food is always in demand; eating never goes out of style. All in all, this is a wonderful opportunity for the future of our college.”
Article by Jon Young, ACC Staff Writer. Map courtesy the Burlington Times News.
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