Mesa Community College: New Degree Program Prepares Students for Careers in Sustainable Agriculture

Member Spotlight

Beginning with the spring 2016 semester, Mesa Community College (MCC) began offering an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Sustainable Agriculture—the first of its kind in Arizona.

The Sustainable Agriculture degree provides students with both the technical and small business skills needed to manage or develop a small farm or agricultural business. The program is focused on small scale and urban agriculture with an emphasis on natural practices and sustainability. Courses include Field Crop Production, Livestock Production, Aquaponics, Integrated Pest Management, and Agricultural Marketing, to name a few.

This degree is different from the certificate and degree programs in Sustainable Food Systems in that students gain hands-on experience in sustainable agricultural practices in the classroom and on a working urban farm at the Center for Urban Agriculture. Produce is sold at the MCC Farmer’s Market and the excess is given to local food banks.

“In response to an explosion in consumer demand for locally grown food, many existing local farms are expanding and new ones are cropping up around the valley. Our goal is to prepare a highly skilled, trained workforce and new entrepreneurs for this growing field,” said Peter Conden, Director of MCC’s Urban Horticulture and Sustainable Agriculture programs.

Conden is passionate about his work at the college and reports concerns about the origins of his own food, sustainability, managing resources, and pollution of the soil and groundwater. “Our program is based on organic and natural production methods,” he added.

Seed money for the program came from a 2014 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) education grant of $108,000, which included a 25-percent match from MCC. “With assistance from the EPA grant we were able to write new courses, rewrite old courses, purchase equipment, and put this new program together,” noted Conden.

At the MCC Center for Urban Agriculture, students are able to take classes and receive hands-on, real life experience working on the college’s urban farm and greenhouse.

Opinions expressed in Member Spotlight are those of the author(s) and/or submitting college and do not necessarily reflect those of the League for Innovation in the Community College.