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Editorial: Agriculture’s local impact bigger than you may think

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Agriculture has played and continues to play a significant role in Bartholomew County.

That may seem surprising to some, considering that the Columbus area is most commonly associated with manufacturing, especially in relation to the automotive industry.

But consider these facts:

The Purdue Extension Service celebrated its 100th anniversary in Bartholomew County with an open house Thursday.

Last year, the county’s Extension service had more than 1,100 youths involved in its three 4-H age groups, plus more than 300 adults in Homemaker clubs.

Enrollment in Ivy Tech Community College’s agricultural program has quadrupled since 2008, from 16 to 66 students last year.

That demonstrates a lot of local interest in agriculture-related areas.

More importantly, the local Extension office and Ivy Tech are serving local students and residents well by adapting to an agriculture industry that is expanding and becoming more high-tech.

Traditional 4-H projects of livestock, foods and clothing have been joined by robotics and biotechnology. Extension programs offered now tackle topics such as healthy lifestyles, childhood development and nutrition. Ivy Tech’s agriculture program is making sure students have foundations in the computer and chemistry skills they might need to automate planting and harvesting processes, or for chemical applications on crops.

Ivy Tech’s efforts have reaped additional benefits. The Columbus campus is receiving $10,000 of a $60,000 grant, which will help its agriculture program expand. Also, students have become more excited about agriculture. The Agriculture Ambassadors club, launched in 2010, now has 29 members who go on field trips, such as to a meat locker, and participate in community events, such as the Farm Olympics at the fairgrounds.

And while the Purdue Extension Service of Bartholomew County has adapted to present needs, it’s been successful in retaining longtime participants. One homemaker club member said that people remain interested in Extension programs because they learn something every month.

Agriculture in Bartholomew County is not just about growing crops and livestock, but seeing that good ideas for the future germinate into solid plans and futures for tomorrow. Thankfully, that’s happening here.

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