This article, by Morgan Rose, was originally published in The Prairie Star.
“We have been talking about offering some sort of farm and ranch degree for years. About a year and a half ago we ended up putting together a program we feel will be very beneficial to students who either want to return to the family operation or work in agriculture in general,” explained Kurt Steadman, associate professor of business at UMW.
Steadman went on to say, offering an agriculture-based degree is really a natural fit for UMW. Beaverhead County, located in the extreme southwest corner of Montana, is noted for its agriculture. In fact, not only is it Montana’s biggest county in terms of land size, but it is also the largest producer of beef cattle with a stock of 150,000 head, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
“We are down here in the heart of agriculture country. Beaverhead County has over 1 million acres of agricultural land,” Steadman pointed out.
UMW already offers a very comprehensive business degree where students learn about all facets of the industry, from traditional business approaches to what is new in terms of technology. Being housed in the small town of Dillon, UMW’s business degree program has a rural, small business feel. Even so, the fundamental classes students take prepare them to step into the fast-paced world of business, no matter the size or scope.
Students pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from UMW take core business classes like marketing, accounting, business law and operations. The minor in Farm and Ranch Operations includes all those classes, as well, but students also learn about things like soil and water management, commodity marketing, basic animal science and nutrition, as well as animal reproduction.
“One of our target demographics is the rural Montana student who maybe comes from an ag background or has an interest in agriculture. We believe the curriculum we have put together will be very beneficial to these students,” Steadman explained.
UMW offers its students a unique learning approach, known as Experience One. Courses are offered on a block schedule, meaning students take one course at a time for three hours per day for 18 days. They then have a short break before starting the next course. Block scheduling is more conducive for hands-on, experiential learning, allowing students to really become immersed in their degree program.
“What will make this Farm and Ranch Operations minor awesome is that students will take one course at a time. We are working to build partnerships with larger ranches in the area so students can go do field work during those courses,” he said.
The Farm and Ranch Operations minor has been well-supported by the community of Dillon, and even though the degree offering just became approved not too long ago, students are showing great interest in the program, as well. The diverse course offerings allows students to graduate with an ag-based business degree that will prove them fitting for jobs ranging from ranch management to ag lending and everything in between.
“We are really excited about this program,” Steadman concluded.
UMW will continue to build the Farm and Ranch Operations minor with even more courses slated to roll out for approval in the future. Those interested in Experience One and the new degree offering are encouraged to visit the University of Montana Western’s website at www.umwestern.edu.