Mercer County students seeking to become farmers, horticulturists, and natural resources officers have a new way to accomplish their goals.

The Mercer County Technical Education Center will soon hire an instructor to head the new Agribusiness Systems program which begins in January. The Mercer County Board of Education authorized funding for the position at last Tuesday's meeting.

Superintendent Deborah Akers informed the board of education that the State Department of Education had agreed to provide $75,000 to fund the program if Mercer County would agree to supply funding for the teacher for the second year of the program.

“The money that we'll get from the state, that will pay for the teacher's salary and some of the equipment,” Akers said. “It's not going to pay for all of it, though. Linda [Cox, the Director of the

Mercer County Technical Education Center] has been working on ways to scale that down.”

Vice President Gilbert “Gene” Bailey, himself a farmer, agreed that it would cost more than the state was providing to purchase the equipment necessary.

Akers recommendation to the board included a consolidation of the Project Lead the Way and Computer Aided Drafting and Design teachers. In a memorandum, Akers noted that attendance in the programs was currently low.

“We've talked to the new instructor in the CADD program,” Akers explained. “She's agreed to take on both programs.”

The board then approved the funding of the program, unanimously.

Nearly a week after, Cox was excited for the program to join the ones offered at MCTEC.

She explained that it would join the natural resources, food, and agriculture cluster of programs offered.

“This is something that we would like to offer,” she said. “The federal and state departments of education have begun an initiative to get produce from local vendors. To get that we have to train the producers.”

Cox really seemed excited at the directions that the programs that students could take. She believed that students could use the skills learned in the programs to supplement income or as a profession.

“This field is wide open,” she said.

For now, she and the rest of MCTEC staff were focused on finding the right person to lead the program. Cox added that anyone interested in helping Mercer County students to become a part of the this program can contact MCTEC to make a donation.

“We're trying to create a new generation of agripreneurs,” Cox added.  

— Contact Matt Christian at mchristian@ptonline.net.

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