U.S. Representative Randy Feenstra Champions Agriculture Education at Iowa Lakes Community College

Feenstra Visit

(Emmetsburg, Iowa) Congressman Randy Feenstra, representing Iowa’s 4th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, visited Iowa Lakes Community College on August 3. During his visit, he engaged with attendees, toured the college farm, and discussed legislation he was helping introduce— the Community College Agriculture Advancement Act. He emphasized that this legislation aims to assist community and technical colleges in obtaining the necessary resources to enhance student agriculture education opportunities and foster the growth of the next generation of farmers.

“Everyone I talk to in the agriculture industry says we need more workers, but they can’t just be workers; they must be trained. So, on my side, on the federal level, we’ve introduced a bill to bring more dollars to teach agriculture and to help with the high cost of technology. We need to help community colleges get the money needed to get the technology, like the new tractor or other equipment, so kids can learn about new technology. This is the key to ensuring students are prepared to work in the industry. The bill is bipartisan and gaining traction, which is very exciting,” stated Representative Feenstra.

During the farm tour, Representative Feenstra made stops at three distinct agriculture stations on the College Farm: the Beef Technology area, the Swine Technology area, and the paddocks. Engaging with students and graduates present at each station, Representative Feenstra had the opportunity to learn about their experiences and the invaluable knowledge they have gained from these diverse areas. They shared how attending the community college has significantly contributed to their growth and success in the field of agriculture.

At the Beef Technology station, Representative Feenstra was exposed to a diverse range of beef production and management skills from the perspective of sophomore Austin Vanderhoff, majoring in Agriculture Production Technology, and Assistant Professor Stacy Benson. They discussed how breeding and calving are handled, the invaluable hands-on skills acquired through practical work in the field, and the valuable lessons gleaned from their experiences on the College Farm.

“Small classes and groups and the hands-on learning have been helpful for me. We get to have these great off-topic discussions while working on the farm, and I feel like we learn so much more from those off-topic conversations than we would if we were only in a regular classroom,” said Vanderhoff.

At the Swine Technology station, sophomore Joseph Schumacher majoring in Agriculture Production Technology and Agribusiness Technology, and Assistant Professor Kelly Dodge shared with Representative Feenstra the incredible learning opportunities she has encountered while working with the swine.

Schumacher described how the hands-on experience has allowed him to apply classroom discussions directly to real-world swine husbandry and industry practices. The practical exposure has been instrumental in shaping his understanding of swine management and enhancing his skills in the field.

In the feedlot and paddocks area, Iowa Lakes agriculture graduates Shelby Davis and Baily Rohlfsen engaged in an insightful conversation discussing the importance of rotational grazing management, highlighting how the paddock designs contribute to the optimal growth and health of the cattle. Additionally, they shared how their education from Iowa Lakes has been instrumental in shaping their understanding and expertise, empowering them with valuable skills that they now apply in their jobs.

“My favorite part of this program is everything is hands-on, and a lot of it is student-led. You need to get put out there in the elements and figure it out. We have more than enough help when needed from teachers and other classmates, but it’s really about learning how to become that problem-fixer at the moment. The number of things I’ve learned at Iowa Lakes that I can apply to my life is amazing,” explained Rohlfson, who earned two Associate of Applied Science degrees in Agriculture Production Technology and Agribusiness Technology.

Davis, a graduate with an Associate of Applied Science in Agribusiness Technology, has set her sights on attending a four-year institution to advance her education and pursue her dream of becoming an agriculture teacher. With a passion for agriculture and a strong foundation in agribusiness, she is eager to delve deeper into the subject and equip herself with the necessary skills and knowledge to inspire future generations in agriculture.

“The small number of people in classes was nice because you built that relationship with not only the professor, but also your fellow classmates, and that’s exactly what happened with Shelby and me. We had no idea who each other was before, but now we live just five minutes away from each other, ask each other questions about our jobs, and can reach out to our teachers anytime. It’s amazing the connections and friendships you build in these classes; it feels like a big family,” shared Davis.

Following the farm tour, Representative Feenstra engaged in an in-depth discussion about agricultural-based legislation he is actively supporting, emphasizing the importance of the Community College Agriculture Advancement Act, which would provide grant-based aid to community and technical colleges to acquire the necessary resources to improve agricultural education for students and the future generation of farmers.