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Top Colorado agricultural lenders donate more than $1 million to Center for Agricultural Education

February 14, 2013
by Coleman Cornelius

Four of Colorado's top agricultural lenders have joined together to donate more than $1 million for construction of a modern Center for Agricultural Education at CSU that will train new generations of agricultural teachers and leaders.

Clay Miller, a student studying agricultural education at CSU, delivers a leadership presentation to students at Windsor High School. Miller and other CSU students will benefit from the Center for Agricultural Education.The gift to Colorado State and the Colorado FFA Foundation is among the first to benefit students at agricultural colleges and land-grant universities nationwide as part of Denver-based CoBank's new $5 million agricultural research and education funding initiative, announced earlier this week.

Other partners supporting the Center for Agricultural Education are American AgCredit of Greeley, Farm Credit of Southern Colorado in Colorado Springs and Premier Farm Credit of Sterling. All are members of the Farm Credit System, a nationwide network of lending institutions specifically chartered to serve agriculture and rural America.

Details unveiled today

Leaders of the Colorado FFA Foundation, CSU College of Agricultural Sciences and the donor partnership will unveil details of the gift and its impact during the Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame Celebration, beginning at 4:15 p.m. today at the Renaissance Hotel Denver.

"CSU has a distinguished history as a center of knowledge, research and education in agricultural sciences," said Robert B. Engel, president and chief executive officer of CoBank. "We are delighted to be joining with American AgCredit, Farm Credit of Southern Colorado and Premier Farm Credit in support of this exciting initiative, which will deliver meaningful, long-term benefits to agriculture and Colorado's rural economy."

Helps train students to be ag-ed teachersElisa Sagehorn, who recently graduated cum laude with a bachelor's degree in agricultural education, exemplifies the young leaders trained by the CSU Agricultural Education Program. Four of Colorado's top agricultural lenders have donated $1 million for a cutting-edge center that will house the CSU program.

The Center for Agricultural Education will be constructed at the CSU research farm north of Fort Collins when the university and Colorado FFA Foundation have fulfilled a $3 million fund-raising goal. The campaign already has generated more than $2 million in donations from companies, industry associations and individuals who understand the vital role of agriculture in the economy and society, said Dale McCall, chairman of the Colorado FFA Foundation board of directors. The foundation has helped spearhead project planning and fund-raising.

"The gift from CoBank and its Farm Credit partners will provide an opportunity for students at CSU to be fully trained and effective when they go out to be agricultural-education teachers and FFA advisors in schools throughout our region," McCall said. "This wonderful gift allows us to get closer and closer to our goal of a center that will influence students for generations."

The significant gift will support students in CSU's quickly growing Agricultural Education Program, which prepares college students to lead high-school agriculture and FFA programs -- and to enter other sectors of agriculture that require leadership skills and broad knowledge of an industry working intently to address global food security. The CSU Agricultural Education Program now has about 40 undergraduate students enrolled, with an additional 12 pursuing agricultural education at the graduate level.

"Premier Farm Credit is honored to participate in this important endeavor to improve and expand the educational experience for those who will themselves become agricultural educators," said Rick Sanger, president and chief executive officer, Premier Farm Credit. "These teachers play a key role in developing the next generation of farmers, ranchers and other ag professionals, and we are proud to support their efforts to ensure a bright future for agriculture."

"Farm Credit of Southern Colorado is very pleased to be part of this collaboration to enhance agricultural education in Colorado," added Russ Tomky, president and chief executive officer, Farm Credit of Southern Colorado.

Representing agricultural past, present, futureThe Center for Agricultural Education will boast 18,000 square feet of modern classrooms, office and meeting space. It will be home to the Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame, a trademark program of the Colorado FFA Foundation, and will be open to visitors.

The Center for Agricultural Education will encompass more than 18,000 square feet, with customized laboratory, technology, teaching and office space. It also will include special exhibit space for the Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame, a signature program of the Colorado FFA Foundation. In this way, the center will be not only an agricultural training facility, but a gathering place for people dedicated to agriculture and rural communities.

"The CoBank Center for Agricultural Education and the Farm Credit Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame will represent the best of Colorado's agricultural past, present and future," said Ron Carli, chief executive officer, American AgCredit. "As the nation's single-largest source of credit to rural America, the Farm Credit System shares the same rich history and passion for preparing the next generation of agricultural educators. Their dedication and influence will help meet the challenge of feeding our nation and the world."

Agricultural leadership key at CSUStudents in the CSU Agricultural Education Program prepare to lead high-school agricultural education and FFA programs. Kellie Enns, center, consulting with CSU undergraduates, heads the university program.

Graduates of the CSU Agricultural Education Program, housed in the College of Agricultural Sciences, have been in high demand and nearly all the program's students have been employed upon graduation because they are prepared to mentor high-school students and to fulfill other leadership roles, said Kellie Enns, assistant professor and program leader.

Leadership in agriculture is more essential now than ever before, noted Craig Beyrouty, dean of the CSU College of Agricultural Sciences. That's because agriculture is challenged to meet the food demands of a global population expected to top 9 billion people in the next few decades, while solving pressing environmental problems and improving quality of life for people near and far.

These grand challenges require innovations and the critical ability of people in U.S. agriculture to connect with others in an increasingly urban society.

"This gift is a testament to the partners' commitment to agriculture, our rural communities, and the development of students who will play key leadership roles in the future. It's huge," Beyrouty said. "The Center for Agricultural Education will be a state-of-the-art facility that will advance our program and agricultural education throughout the region."