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Northey offers insights on new Hawkeye ag center

posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2016 in  College News

By: Christinia Crippes, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

 WATERLOO—The old adage to think globally but act locally is getting turned on its head at Hawkeye Community College.

The HCC Global Agriculture Learning Center is focusing on introducing students to the world to form networks internationally and learn from different nations about their production methods to improve agriculture here at home.

In an effort to build on that international reach, the community college is in the process of expanding its agriculture-focused center on campus, so it will have a physical location to house experts and host events for people in the agriculture industry, for students and for the community.

“Our goal is to make this a center that’s not just an event once in awhile, it’s an ongoing process. The scholars are moving in and out; students that are studying from other parts of the world that may have expertise that we want to share with our community,” HCC President Linda Allen said.

As the college works to get the physical center up and running, it sought insights Monday from a key player in Iowa’s ag world: the state’s Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey.

Brad Kinsinger, assistant professor at HCC’s Global Agriculture Learning Center, said Northey’s input is important in helping to develop topics for the center to focus on and identifying who should be involved.

Kinsinger explained the mission of the center, which will be established at an old housing unit next to HCC pasture land, is bringing people together and sharing ideas to improve agriculture here and abroad. He noted everyone will need to work together — and learn from each other — to improve agriculture to feed an estimated 9 billion people by 2050.

“Whenever we go to other countries … agriculture seems like such a big part of their life and everybody appreciates it so much, and I just feel like we’ve gotten more and more of a disconnect here in the United States,” Kinsinger said. “How do we get people to see the importance of it again?”

The idea for the center, which does not have a time frame for opening, was hatched in part by the agriculture-centered study abroad programs HCC already has. HCC’s ag learning center currently has built relationships in four countries — Brazil, Haiti, Denmark and Nicaragua — and makes regular visits abroad to introduce students to agriculture production methods in those nations.

Kinsinger stressed the new HCC center will not be duplicating work at Iowa State University. Rather, Kinsinger said, the community college’s expertise is in hands-on, applied learning.

Northey noted during the hourlong meeting — that he says could have gone on longer if his schedule allowed — he isn’t aware of any other community colleges with this sort of center.

“I think to organize an effort around figuring out how do we make those connections easier, how do we give students international experiences, is a great thing,” Northey said after the meeting. “I’m excited about it and look forward to being in touch about it.”

Northey and Kinsinger agreed one of the challenges is in figuring out how to house all the information about global agriculture and how best to share it. Northey also stressed the importance of forming connections to expand the center’s reach.

Northey also pointed out the importance of developing a curriculum around understanding policy issues in the industry — from water quality to technology to the future of agriculture education.

“Part of the value is for students and maybe other adults to be able to sense how reachable this is, how normal this is. For a lot of us, before we got involved internationally, it was so distant,” Northey said, adding, “This is so much more accessible than it was 20 years ago, both in getting there, and it’s so much more relevant than it once was.”

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