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LAFAYETTE — Ivy Tech Community College Lafayette and eight additional colleges in the Community College Alliance for Agriculture Advancement (C2A3) will receive $529,924 over the course of the next four years as part of a cooperative agreement issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The nine Midwestern community colleges that make up the alliance boast strong agricultural programs and traditions. The consortium was developed under a Memorandum of Understanding with the USDA-NRCS and USDA North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education.

The main objective of the agreement is to realize a shared goal of ensuring quality education and training of field practitioners. By establishing a collaborative framework for cooperative activities, these partners will enhance and accelerate training and adoption of technologies and best practices for improved agricultural productivity and natural resources stewardship.

A key component of this agreement is hands-on learning in the field, utilizing college land resources to model best practices. Faculty and students will implement a conservation plan developed in cooperation with NRCS, install practices on the ground, collect data and help inform current and future producers and conservation professionals.

Ivy Tech Lafayette will utilize the funds from this agreement for equipment and staffing to implement conservation practices and measure key soil health data points. As one example, using a recently acquired Interseeder, Ivy Tech Lafayette students will be planting cover crops into early stage corn in several test plots.

The goal is not only to accelerate the adoption of conservation practices through the education of current, two-year agriculture students, but to also disseminate information to the broader community through field days and other college events and partnerships.

Ivy Tech Lafayette will host field days, inviting the community to observe the results of the cover crop trials and to hear from experts about best practices in the use of cover crops.

The C2A3 collaboration was born out of a mutual desire to provide more ongoing education, training and demonstration to future farm producers and agricultural service providers with the goal of improving the health, and therefore the long–term productivity, resilience and sustainability of the soil.

According to Jerry Raynor, Indiana NRCS State Conservationist, “Indiana NRCS is excited to partner with Ivy Tech Lafayette to push our understanding of soil health management systems to higher levels with a new group of students, farmers, and conservation professionals alike. Ivy Tech’s ability to dedicate their farm, faculty. and students will be a huge benefit to evaluating the various ways that Indiana farmers can manage their land.”

In addition to working together on applied research projects that advance student learning on their college farms, member institutions partner with one another to share resources, faculty expertise, curriculum and tools which will advance the future of agriculture production in this country.