CCC starts high-tech farm center Computers, video available in field or classrooms

October 16, 1997|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

C Carroll Community College launched yesterday its Advanced Technology Center for farmers who might find fiber optics and satellite monitors as critical to their progress as combines and tractors.

The goal of the center, paid for with $324,826 from a state program for community college-business training partnerships, will be to help farmers take advantage of technological advances.

"Agriculture is not only the largest industry of this region, it is the largest industry in the state of Maryland," said Joseph F. Shields, president of Carroll Community College.

That's why when Gov. Parris N. Glendening made another $2.8 million available for community colleges this year for business partnerships, Carroll chose to focus on the needs of farmers. Altogether, 19 centers got the state grants. The others went to community colleges in Howard, Frederick, Montgomery and Washington counties, and the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service.

The Carroll center is not a freestanding building but a coordination of services through the community college and extension agents. The training might be just as likely to be delivered in the fields as in the classroom, said Karen Merkle, vice president at Carroll for extended learning.

Farmers are likely to gain access to training through the extension service, historically an education and consulting resource.

David Greene, director of the extension service in Carroll County, said he hopes to hear from farmers and agribusinesses whose needs can be met by the center.

Rather than a selection of courses, the training will be whatever farmers ask for or appear to need, he said.

Waiting at the college is an arsenal of computers and video that can allow a farmer in Mount Airy to have a face-to-face conference with an expert in Indiana.

The two-way interactive video and audio the college uses for students to take courses at other schools can be used by farmers, too, Shields said.

"The boundaries are gone, and that's what the advanced technology center is all about," Shields said.

Carroll traditionally has been a dairy and beef cattle county, Greene said. But other businesses have emerged -- aquaculture (the raising of fish), organic vegetable and fruit farms and growing ornamental plants and trees.

While county leaders are spending millions to preserve agriculturally zoned land that might otherwise be sold for housing developments, the new center can make sure that farms and agribusinesses remain viable, said County Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown.

William Knill, president of the Maryland Farm Bureau and a Mount Airy farmer, agreed.

"The preservation of the farmer, and not just the farmland, is an important part of this," Knill said.

This is the second year of the state advanced technology grants. Last year, four community colleges split $2 million to start centers.

In other counties, the focus ranges from biotechnology to communications. Howard Community College, for example, has a grant to work with the information technology industry.

Pub Date: 10/16/97

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