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Community college takes ‘big world’ approach to ag

Q-&-A-David-Grunklee

David Grunklee is dean of applied technologies at Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo, Iowa.

Grunklee, 57, is a native of Blooming Prairie, Minnesota. He earned a two-year agriculture degree at the University of Minnesota at Waseca and worked for a time before coming to Iowa, where he earned a degree in agricultural education at Iowa State University.

He was a high school agricultural instructor at North Tama High School and at Gladbrook-Reinbeck High School before he began teaching at Hawkeye Tech in 2000.

IFT: Tell us about the agricultural program at your school.

GRUNKLEE: We offer two-year degrees in areas such as agricultural business management and animal science. We also offer a one-year general agricultural diploma. We’re heavily into the crop and agronomy angles on the agricultural business side, and our animal science program includes a veterinary assistant diploma that is geared toward large animal practices.

We have a 250-acre farm we use for training that includes corn and soybeans, as well as some hay and natural prairie. We also have a cow-calf herd and a farrow-to-feeder swine operation and some sheep.

IFT: How would you describe the approach there?

GRUNKLEE: Our bread and butter is that we are very hands-on. We do things like soil sampling and testing.

IFT: How has enrollment been for agriculture in the community college world?

GRUNKLEE: It has been fairly strong. Agriculture is a fairly significant program at our school, and agricultural enrollment has been strong, especially since the agricultural economy has generally been strong.

IFT: What is the job outlook for graduates?

GRUNKLEE: It is also still looking strong. We’re getting calls and emails on a weekly or even daily basis from employers looking for graduates.

IFT: What is a strength of your program or something that sets it apart from some other agricultural programs?

GRUNKLEE: We have a global agriculture learning center that brings in professionals from around the world. Our students have the chance to study abroad and they also meet students and professionals from other countries. We think that brings an invaluable experience for our students.

We have had people coming each year from Brazil. We have some students going to Japan. In the past we sent students to Haiti. Those types of experiences expose the students to everything from 100,000-acre farms in Brazil to quarter-acre farms in Haiti. You just see the growth in the students when you do that.

IFT: What are some of the trends you are seeing in agriculture and agricultural education?

GRUNKLEE: I really think we’re going to see agriculture dealing more with automation and self-driving equipment but you have to train people how to utilize those technologies so they can be good employees or good entrepreneurs.

Agriculture is in an interesting time. Every day there’s something new coming out.

IFT: Any advice for students?

GRUNKLEE: Be open to learning new things and be willing to try different things. It’s a big world and we can always find ways of doing things better than before.

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