One big ag family: Dickinson State agriculture one of best in state

Matthew Curry, The Dickinson Press, N.D.
·4 min read

Mar. 24—In Western North Dakota, agriculture is known for being one of the most important industries. Students planning a career in agriculture often seek higher education but also want to time outside the classroom getting their hands dirty.

Fortunately, at Dickinson State University, that is exactly what the ag department specializes in: making sure students get the best education they can give in the classroom, and providing hands-on learning experience outside the classroom.

"We're a small, public institution. We offer a variety of different programs, and from an ag perspective, quite varied for a program of our size," said Chip Poland, a professor of agriculture and chair of the Department of Agriculture and Technical Studies.

"One of the advantages of us is that we're small; we know our students, a lot of instructor and student interaction and the ability to get a lot of one-on-one attention here that you might lose at a larger institution," Poland added.

While the average individual may think agriculture is all about farming and livestock, there is much more to the industry than meets the eye.

"Agriculture is way bigger than just cows and plows; most businesses in western North Dakota have some ties to agriculture," Poland said.

He then added, "Whether that is the energy industry having to deal with natural resources and reclamation issues, whether that is actually farmers and ranchers, whether it's the grain elevator that is marketing grain, whether it's the livestock barn here in town, whether it's Runnings that's selling retail equipment that is used by the ag sector, you could go through the community of Dickinson and you would find it tough to find a business that doesn't have connection to agriculture."

Students are able to learn about many aspects of the agricultural industry, including ranching, farming, business, natural resources and an in-depth look at soils, which is often difficult to find at a smaller university such as Dickinson State.

"Getting away from treating soil like dirt ... they are living, breathing, ecosystems that can be managed to produce agriculture's benefit," Poland said. "They can be managed by the environment's benefit, they can be managed such as they provide benefits back to society if we understand those resources well enough."

However, one key benefit of coming to Dickinson State is students being able to ditch the classroom to learn from professionals on the job.

"We can do that fairly easily," Poland said. "Within 15-20 minutes we can be off-campus and out into native range looking at that sort of resource. Which provides us an advantage for those kinds of kids that want to be hands-on and don't want to be in the classroom all the time."

As with every student that seeks higher education, the goal is to have a better career prospects. Poland said the agricultural department has a strong working relationship with some of the top agricultural industries within the state and will help students try to find the best fit for them as they prepare to graduate.

"We have a strong working relationship with the private sector, the production sector, with the government sector as well as the energy sector," he said. "If a student has a desire for a kind of career, we spend a considerable amount of time trying to figure out what that career goal is., and then trying to help that student create a network of resources that will help them identify employers before they graduate."

Poland added, "The probability that they would locate a job within their particular career field would be great by the time they'd be ready to graduate."

Lastly, for those who may be away from home, or seeking a close-knit group of friends and a strong working relationship between professors and students, the Dickinson State agricultural department would be the perfect place.

"We spend a considerable amount of time and purpose in trying to create an ag family over here," Poland said. "When a student walks through our doors, even a prospective student that comes to look at campus, they get a sense that 'I'm not coming here as a student, but I'm coming here to be a member of what there is in the ag department' and we put a lot of emphasis on in terms of trying to make this really a family."

For more information regarding the Dickinson State Department of Agriculture and Technical Studies, call 701-483-2185, or email Chip Poland at Chip.Poland@dickinsonstate.edu.