Grant recipients

Agriculture supporters came together April 5 at the annual Ridgewater Agriculture Department banquet in Willmar. One of the highlights was a chance for ag students, faculty and administration to meet supporters like Compeer Financial. Pictured from left are Compeer Financial’s Amy Kramer, Jeff Miller, Ridgewater dean of instruction, Kelly Magnuson, Ridgewater Foundation executive director and vice president of advancement and outreach, Karen Johnson of Compeer Financial, Curt Yoose, Ridgewater ag faculty member, and Clayton Schreifels and Annalise Brede, professional agriculture students.

Ridgewater College recently received a $75,000 grant from the Agriculture and Rural Initiative, Compeer Financial’s donor-advised fund. The grant was part of $825,000 granted to community and technical colleges across the cooperative’s 144-county territory.

“Because Compeer clients often list workforce development among their highest concerns, our board agreed that vocational agriculture education should be a high priority for the fund,” said Rodney Bosma, a Compeer Financial director. “Our partners in higher education provide opportunities for young adults in rural communities every day, and we hope this support will enhance those training programs to prepare them for a successful future in agriculture.”

Compeer has committed $1.9 million in grants and scholarships over the next five years to further develop agriculture’s workforce.

Ridgewater has used its funds to purchase and vinyl-wrap a 45-foot agriculture technology mobile trailer with photos to help promote Ridgewater’s 10 agriculture programs through hands-on technology. Additional grant priorities included investing in a new Meat Cutting certificate program and purchasing a Near Infra-Red Silage Moisture Tester.

Ridgewater is one of four Minnesota community and technical colleges receiving this grant support. Recipients were chosen based on their ag education offerings, ag workforce development and geographic impact. These grants are expected to directly impact more than 2,700 students studying agriculture and agriculture-related fields, and help to enhance the curriculum offered by more than 125 faculty instructors.

“Compeer Financial recognized a need to assist community and technical colleges with funding innovative and leading-edge agriculture programs and initiatives,” said Jeff Miller, Ridgewater dean of instruction for technical programs. “We are grateful. The Ag Technology trailer will provide unique opportunities for K-12 students, post-secondary students, and industry professionals to learn the requisite skills needed in the precision agriculture industry. Use of the trailer will strengthen Ridgewater College’s already strong and long-standing Precision Agriculture program (formerly known as GPS/GIS Systems).”

Compeer’s Karen Johnson attended the annual Ridgewater Ag Banquet on Tues., April 5, to share the milestone of the completed trailer and the progress in development of the Meat Cutting program.

“It’s exciting to see how community and technical colleges provide a one-of-a-kind educational opportunity focused on the needs and careers in the local communities,” Johnson said.

“We are proud to recognize the vision of the Ridgewater College Ag Department faculty for the trailer and the learning opportunity they will provide students as they complete the highly technical build and installation of various hardware and software needed for the trailer,” Miller added.

Each grant partner college is also receiving two annual $1,250 scholarships for ag program or pathway students during the next five years.