The Arkansas State University-Beebe Department of Agriculture was recently recognized as one of only six programs nationwide that received the National Association of Agricultural Educators Outstanding Postsecondary/Adult Agricultural Education program award at the NAAE annual convention in Las Vegas.
ASU-Beebe has one of the only post-secondary, two-year agriculture programs in Arkansas, appealing to both recent high school graduates and non-traditional adults seeking higher education. ASU-Beebe Assistant Professor of Agriculture Jerry Sites said “The economic importance of agriculture in Arkansas cannot be overstated. As the state’s largest industry, agriculture accounts for nearly one quarter of the state’s economic activity ($16 billion annually), and provides one out of every six jobs.” Arkansas ranks nationally as a top ten producer of rice, baitfish and catfish, broilers and turkeys, cotton, timber, eggs, soybeans and grain sorghum.
In addition to ultra-modern classrooms, ASU-Beebe has one of the only working farms on a community college in the state. The unique university facilities are used to impart real-world agricultural principles to students through hands-on learning. The 150 acre farm features pasture, livestock working facilities, an orchard, an arena, greenhouse and shop.
“Although having an agriculture background is helpful, it is not a prerequisite for success in an agriculture-related program at the university,” stated Chuck Wisdom, assistant professor of agriculture at ASU-Beebe. According to the USDA, between 2010 and 2015, more jobs were expected to be available in agricultural and food systems, renewable energy, and the environment than qualified graduates to fill them.
ASU-Beebe offers a 60-hour Associate of Science Degree in agriculture, with an emphasis in one of five areas: agricultural business, agricultural education, animal science, plant science, and agricultural science. The university also offers a bachelor’s degree with an agricultural business emphasis through the ASU-Jonesboro programs held on the Beebe campus.
Additionally, both Sites and Wisdom have extensive experience in the agriculture industry, having served as cooperative extension agents before teaching at ASU-Beebe. This allows them to provide students with hands-on experiences in all the phases of crop and livestock production. Also, community and industry partnerships are important keys to the success of students at ASU-Beebe. The department maintains an excellent relationship with a variety of agricultural agencies and companies, and assists students in securing internships and employment after graduation.
Each of the six regional Outstanding Postsecondary/Adult Program Award winners recognized at the NAAE convention received a lease on a Toyota vehicle. The ASU-Beebe Agriculture Department was given a one-year, unlimited millage lease on a 2013 Toyota Tundra, which may be used to travel to meetings, high schools, and any other location the department deems necessary.
Toyota sponsors the Outstanding Postsecondary/Adult Agricultural Education Program Award as a special project of the National FFA Foundation. NAAE, located in Lexington, KY., is the professional association for agricultural educators. Its mission is “professionals providing agricultural education for the global community through visionary leadership, advocacy and service.” For more information about the NAAE program, contact Julie Fritsch, NAAE communications/marketing coordinator, (859) 257-2224.
ASU-Beebe has campuses located at Beebe, Heber Springs, Searcy, and the Little Rock Air Force Base. For more information about ASU-Beebe and its programs, call (501) 882-3600 or visit the website at www.asub.edu.