Austin Community College’s Sustainable Agriculture Entrepreneurship Program is offering several new courses this fall to help aspiring and small-scale farmers reap profits from their produce.
Noncredit classes in topics such as fruit tree production, soil health, whole farm management, and beekeeping are offered through the college’s Continuing Education Division and may apply to a future credit program.
“Through classroom instruction and hands-on training, we will provide students with technical skills, such as planning crops and operating equipment, as well as entrepreneurial knowledge for growing a financially viable business,” says Sustainable Agriculture Specialist Evelyn Rosas.
Addressing a growing need
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports the number of high-skilled jobs in the food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, and environment fields exceeds the number of graduates with degrees in agriculture programs by more than 20,000.
In Central Texas, demand for fruits and vegetables is valued at $356 million, while supply is $78 million, based on estimates from consultant New Venture Advisors. Rosas says that demand, along with an influx of young people interested in food web economy, is driving a need for resources about sustainable farming and support for growers.
“We need more farmers and more folks dedicated to land stewardship, improving the farmer quality of life, and our farm ties to the community,” she says.
A certified organic crops inspector, Rosas worked first as an apprentice and then as a manager on farms in California and Texas before joining ACC in February. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago and a certificate in Ecological Horticulture from University of California at Santa Cruz’s Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems.
Elgin Campus farm
Meanwhile, construction is underway — weather permitting — at ACC’s Elgin Campus, where a working farm will provide hands-on learning. Crews are fencing a one-acre field for a fruit tree orchard, teaching barn, and 1,400-square-foot greenhouse. The site also will include a market garden with more than 30 fruits and vegetables, soil-building cover crops, a hoop house, chicken coop, and raised beds that meet accessibility standards.
Rosas says future additions may include a rainwater collection system and a separate pasture area for livestock that could provide training opportunities for ACC veterinary technology students.
The college will continue to introduce new sustainable agriculture classes as facilities are completed. Rosas says she hopes to pursue partnerships with local farmers and ranchers that also could offer hands-on learning and internship opportunities for students.
“The organic farmers in this area offer a wonderful, unique community to be a part of,” she says. “We’re looking forward to drawing upon their expertise and the agriculture infrastructure in the area to help students learn how they can build a rewarding career and make a positive impact in their community.”
Visit the Sustainable Agriculture Entrepreneurship webpage to learn more about the program.Back to Top