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Sustainable Agriculture

As a pioneer in innovative curriculum programs for the community college system, CCCC scored another winning effort with the establishment of its Sustainable Agriculture program in 2002. Developed in partnership with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension and with input from the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, the curriculum is about better growing methods.

Sustainable agriculture focuses on production that renews resources. The program is about more than environmental awareness. It is also about the farming community. Urban sprawl has inflated land prices and small farmers, unable to deal with rising taxes, diminished markets for traditional crops, and supply and equipment costs, are losing their farms.

All this is occurring at a time when the market is rapidly increasing for sustainably-grown products such as cut flowers, vegetables, meat and dairy products. Approximately 85 percent of the organic products sold in North Carolina are grown out-of-state.

The unique curriculum offered through the Sustainable Agriculture program has attracted students from throughout North Carolina, as well as many other states. The program provides both the small business and technical skills needed to develop and manage a profitable, environmentally sound and community-based small farm or agricultural business.

Students work with fellow classmates to plant, cultivate, and harvest a variety of produce. They learn to utilize a variety of tools and equipment, including tractors and tillers. Field trips, farm tours, and internships enhance the learning experience.

You can take advantage of CCCC's convenient location in the heart of North Carolina and become part of a growing agricultural phenomenon. Located on the Chatham Campus in Pittsboro, NC, the program is nestled in a farming community just south of Chapel Hill.

A five-acre student farm at the Pittsboro Campus is an organically managed outdoor classroom for research, demonstration, and crop production. The site includes a greenhouse, as well as student-built farm structures including a pole barn, a packing shed and a masonry pizza oven.

Program instructors have a passion for their work and the sustainable farming community. They are a group of agriculture professionals with years of experience in the field and classroom. By maintaining close ties to a vibrant local farming community, they are able to assist students with internships, as well as job placements.

Some students use their education to build sustainable farms, while others seek employment at established sustainable operations. Employment opportunities are found elsewhere through schools, parks and environmental centers. Jobs are available with non-profit organizations focusing on farmer advocacy.

The sustainable agriculture degree is also useful for persons desiring to serve in the Peace Corps or other volunteer agencies.

Graduates are awarded an Associate in Applied Science degree. The curriculum, designed as a two-year program, includes classes in soil, plant and animal science, practical gardening skills, biological pest management, sustainable livestock management, greenhouse design and agricultural marketing. Additional studies focus on communication, interpersonal psychology and developing a business plan for a small farm.

Non-Credit Courses

History: The Sustainable Farming Program at Central Carolina Community College grew out of a desire to address the needs of the farm community in Chatham County and the surrounding Piedmont region of NC. Initiated by local growers in 1996, the program quickly formed into a one-of-a-kind collaboration of farmers, community members, Central Carolina Community College, NC Cooperative Extension Service, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, R.E.A.L. Enterprises, NC A&T University and NC State University.

The Program: The program takes a unique approach to instruction by using successful farmers as the main instructors. The classes are hands on with field trips to local farms and related businesses and are scheduled to accommodate the working student. The Land Lab has been developed as a research and demonstration facility for sustainable agriculture practices, as well as an outdoor classroom for hands-on instruction in horticulture and other agricultural disciplines.

Students have the opportunity to take courses in a variety of subjects including Medicinal Herbs, Organic Vegetable Production, Sustainable Cut Flower production and Sustainable Poultry Production, as well as Biofuels, alternative energy and sustainable building. CCCC also offers an associate of applied science degree in sustainable agriculture, view degree and certificate options by clicking the curriculum programs tab.

What Students Learn

Students successfully completing the Sustainable Agriculture Program will be able to:

  • Recognize the characteristics of sustainable systems, and understand some of the challenges to sustainability in our present system of agriculture.
  • Identify those crops which are suitable for organic production in the Southeast and be able to outline a management plan from start-up to market.
  • Apply critical and creative thinking skills in farm management issues.
  • Select appropriate breeds for farm needs and demonstrate an understanding of the role of livestock in a sustainable production system.
  • Select, create and maintain the appropriate technology and structures needed for a successful, small-scale farming operation.
  • Write a business plan for a current or future farm business that includes such details as whole farm and enterprise budgets as well as marketing strategies appropriate to skill level and farm scale.
  • Create and present a written marketing plan appropriate for sustainable, organic production in the Southeast.
  • Summarize the challenges to sustainability in our present system of agriculture orally and in writing.
  • Create and maintain an appropriate computational/accounting plan utilizing technology for enterprise management and other record keeping requirements for a sustainable farm or agricultural business.
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