During the spring of 2019, the Southwestern Community College board of trustees approved an expansion project at the Southwestern Community College (SWCC) agricultural site. The project is estimated at $1.8 million and construction began during summer 2019.
The project includes the following additions to the main facility at the SWCC Ag Site, which is located just north of the Creston campus:
• One 45-person classroom (approximately 1,000 square feet)
• One 24-person lab-style room (approximately 1,000 square feet)
• One 24-person classroom (approximately 750 square feet)
• Student lounge
• Mud room
• Two faculty offices
The original agricultural facility, constructed during the 2000-01 academic year, was a 60-foot by 125-foot metal building housing classrooms, a laboratory, an office, and an equipment storage area. Prior to construction of the facility, the college had offered agricultural business and ag transfer programs. Enrollment was at 12 to 15 students. Since then, ag enrollment has continued to grow and additional programs have been added.
Lindsay Stoaks, SWCC assistant vice president of instruction, told the SWCC board in March the ag department had a record-breaking 66 students enrolled during the 2018-19 academic year. During the past five years, Stoaks said enrollment has been at approximately 55 students each year.
“Due to an increase in the number of students completing SWCC’s ag programs, we have outgrown our current facility,” Stoaks explained to the board.
Stoaks said during planning for the expansion, overall needs of the ag department and the safety of students were considered.
“With this expansion, we were able to plan for the two larger classrooms to be concrete-reinforced structures, therefore the areas will double as storm shelters,” stated Stoaks. “Students with ag majors spend the majority of their time in this facility and their safety is of upmost importance.”
Stoaks said the project will double the size of the existing parking lot and tie the SWCC Ag Site to the college’s existing septic system. In addition to the main classroom building, the SWCC Ag Site includes a 215-acre farm complete with three other outbuildings providing space for working livestock indoors, washing and fitting livestock, storing machinery, and protecting livestock from harsh weather conditions; livestock pens; pasture with rotational grazing capabilities; row crop ground; and hay ground. The anticipated completion date is slated for Feb. 1, 2020.
Agricultural programs were first offered at Southwestern in 1998. Agricultural business first appeared in the 1998-2000 college catalog as a career option program. Courses offered in the ag department included animal science, microcomputer application in agriculture, agribusiness management, commodities, crop production, agricultural finance, agricultural sales, forage crop management, beef production, sustainable agriculture, livestock and meat evaluation, and internship.
The ag department currently offers four agriculture-related programs: agricultural business, Associate of Applied Science Degree; crop production, Associate of Applied Science degree; livestock production, Associate of Applied Science degree; and ag transfer, Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree meant for transfer to a four-year college or university. In addition, SWCC’s agricultural business degree is available online.
For additional information, related to the expansion of the ag facility at Southwestern, as well as a simulated video tour of the proposed facility, please visit www.swcciowa.edu/ag-expansion.