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Heartland Community College annex will serve 200 ag students
 
By TIM ALEXANDER
Illinois Correspondent

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — When college officials cut the ribbon on Heartland Community College’s new 29,500 square-foot, $23 million Agriculture Complex on January 31, Heartland President Keith Cornille declared the college as prepared to support the next generation of ag students. 
“With this facility we have the learning spaces needed for plant science, soil analysis, precision planting technology, drone technology, heavy equipment, agribusiness and the many other types of instruction tied to this diverse industry,” Cornille told a crowd of over 100 Heartland staff, students, local officials and agriculture industry leaders who gathered in the complex’s McLean County Farm Bureau (MCFB) Ag Lab for the ribbon cutting event. 
“The Agriculture Complex will also be a resource to engage community youth. The space will be used for school field trips, FFA members, 4-H Club members and others who will carry the industry on for generations to come,” he added.
In addition to the MCFB Ag Lab, the complex, which is located on the campus’ west end along Raab Road, includes the GROWMARK FS Atrium and the Funk Family Foundation Outdoor Learning Center. Others supporting the center include the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Cargill and Precision Planting. In addition, a $2 million grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation supported project costs and building components that enabled the complex to achieve site net zero energy performance. 
“This is an important day not only for our college, but for the community as well,” Cornille said. “Six years ago when I came to Heartland, I had a conversation with the board and asked them how it is that we can live among the richest farmland in the world, and not have a comprehensive agriculture program and the facility to support it. To their credit, they responded that day by sharing their dreams and visions, and then they turned around and had the courage to get behind this project and make sure it became a reality.”
Cornille described the MCFB Ag Lab as a location for business meetings, youth field trips, clinics, workshops, conferences, community events and more. “In this center we will introduce people — many who have never set foot on a farm — to the possibilities of a career in agriculture,” he said. 
MCFB Manager Mike Swartz said the Heartland Ag Complex will help provide a steady pipeline for graduates ready to fill a wide variety of agriculture related employment opportunities in central Illinois and beyond. “For over 100 years the MCFB has organized and supported our partners to provide a pipeline of educational opportunities for youth to pursue careers in agriculture. We are proud to partner with Heartland Community College in this endeavor,” said Swartz.
Support for Heartland’s Ag Complex is an investment in the workforce and the industry’s future, noted Ashley McClintock, executive vice president of human resources for GROWMARK FS. She seconded Swartz’s assertion that investment in the complex would help ensure a steady crop of future farm and ag tech workers. 
“By offering students the education and hands-on experience to succeed in the industry, we are not only preparing them for meaningful careers, but also cultivating a sustainable pipeline of workers,” said McClintock. “We are creating pathways to prosperity for people of all walks of life whether they come from farming backgrounds or urban environments. We are bridging the gap between classroom learning and real-world application by equipping students with the tools they need to thrive in this rapidly evolving industry.”
The college will offer multiple options for agriculture students including degree programs such as Associate in Science, Associate in Arts and Associate in Applied Science. Certifications in Ag Business, Agronomy, Precision Ag and Regenerative Ag will also be offered. In all, the Heartland Ag Complex is expected to serve around 200 credit program students per year.
A limited number of ag-related classes began in the complex with the start of the Spring semester in January 2024. The complex will be fully operational and utilized by the fall semester, according to Cornille.

2/21/2024