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Farms, forests and fish: Agricultural Science & Conservation Law Enforcement

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In this episode, we will find out the details of the Agricultural Science program and the Conservation Law Enforcement program at Athens Tech.

Achieve More with Athens Tech, the official podcast of Athens Technical College.

A unit of the Technical College System of Georgia. Equal Opportunity Institution.

Welcome to Achieve More with Athens Tech, the official podcast of Athens Technical College. This is where you'll discover how the programs at Athens Tech can connect you with in-demand and high paying careers. Today, we're going to hear about the agricultural science program.

Because of Athens tech. I am happier and healthier than I have been in a long time.

As well as the Conservation Law Enforcement Program.

Our instructors bring a wealth of experience and a lot of really good networking opportunities, especially with our other instructor.

Let's begin by hearing what a student has to say about the agricultural science program at Athens Tech.

So my name's William Taylor Johnson. I go back to England, been studying poultry production and in agricultural science, Athens tech. And I'm currently working in the industry. And, you know, I've been in this for less than two years now. And what you know, I've been I've really did it so that I could really expand my knowledge as well as, you know, find something that kept me active in life. You know, it's a farm, or at least the industry itself is very active. So if you try to find something that that helps, you know, help you feel good about yourself. And that's where I ended up with the poultry side of things. So it's it's worked out quite well, actually.

Not every path to the program is the same. Taylor took a journey to get where he is.

Short, short and long of it. I was in the military. I joined when I was in my early twenties when I got out. You know, I was trying to find jobs, trying to find, you know, you know, come back to civilian life. And then I ended up at Athens Tech simply because I wanted to change up my career a little bit. Coming from the maintenance side of things. So I wanted to get in something again, more active for, you know, just to keep my life now a bit more interesting. But I ended up having. You go into Athens Tech. Simply because it was close to home, close to everything I wanted to do. And it offered. You know, small, selective, I shouldn't say selective, but small, smaller class sizes so that I could get more individual learning. And and that really, really drew me in right there was having the idea that there were going to be more individual learning.

So from the classroom to the field, the agricultural science program prepare students for the job.

I've I've actually worked in a in the industry style so I've worked on production side as well as breeders in the poultry industry. What what I found quite amazing was both sides of it. I've used all, if not everything that, you know, some, if not everything of what they have taught me in the classes. So agriculture is a very hands on, you know, field. We you you have to be there, you know, to get some of that experience. It's some things you just don't catch so simply off of a of a PowerPoint. So it, it came in handy to have that hands on experience and then go into the industry. And I was able to use that experience that I got there from Athens Tech. And this courses.

As Abbie will tell you, agricultural science can take you to places you might not expect that.

My name is Abbey Baker. I went through the Agriculture Science Program at Athens Tech. I was in the program from August of 2020 until I just finished. I am now was the I worked through the program as a legal secretary, and I'm doing that full time now. Also, the Hart County chair for the Soil and Water Conservation Commission. And I've been doing that for almost a year now. I'm always kind of in a save the Earth type person, and I felt like getting into something with agriculture, especially like I have, I got the ornamental horticultural production certificate with mine. So things to do with the plants. I love to be around plants. I looked into doing things like hemp farming after I graduated. So anything that just brought me closer to nature I thought was a good idea. So I felt like agriculture science was a great way to put myself back into that. So the first agriculture class I took was Intro to Agriculture. And I remember when I spoke with Dr. Morgan about it, he said, If you took an intro to agriculture class in high school, it's pretty much the same thing just on a college level. So I went in very happy about that with the description he gave me, and I think it was a perfect description because it was just a very good introduction to everything that you're going to learn, because in that class you'll learn about plants and soil and water and different kinds of animals and their digests, digestive systems and other things like that. And then the next class that really, really stuck out in my mind was our agronomy course, which I'm not sure if everyone is required to take it, but I know I had to. And it focuses more on the sciences and soil and water and. Plant science type things and why you would feed certain types of animals, certain types of plants and things like that. And that was my favorite class I think I've ever taken. And then we also something else that sticks out in my mind is that we take several business classes that are required to graduate. And I feel like, you know, is someone who with a degree will probably hold a managerial position at some point. Those classes are very, very helpful.

Gabe would probably agree.

So my name's Gabe Carver, finished the program in 2019, I think it was. There might have been 18, it was somewhere around there. But anyway, after I graduated there, I got a job at Jackson County Agricultural Facility with David Burton. He was a adjunct instructor there for the program, so he was kind of my professor. And then he hired me right out of the box to come work with him. I was just kind of laying out my options. I didn't know if I wanted to, you know, go ahead and jump right into a whole four year school. Because I was working at the time and I really didn't want to get into a bunch of student debt. And I heard that Athens Tech had just started up an agriculture program. So I went down there and I talked to Dr. Morgan and we just kind of sat there and kind of weighed out my options and figured that would be a good way for me to transfer until I figured out exactly what I wanted to do. I learned a heck of a lot of stuff from Dr. Morgan and Dr. Burton. I feel like if I were to win anywhere else, I wouldn't have learned a lot of the content and plot lessons that I would have learned somewhere else. You know.

We've heard from a student and graduates. Let's let the program chair take a deeper dive into the agricultural science program. My name is Chris Morgan.

I'm the program chair for Agricultural Science at Athens Technical College. I've got a background in agricultural education, agriculture and agriculture in general. My first degree in horticulture, and I have subsequent degrees in agricultural education. I've been at Athens Technical College since 2014. There was no program here at the time regarding agriculture. And so I started it from the ground up, developed several courses that are in use now, and in fact they're in use at other colleges as well. So agricultural science encompasses a lot of things. Our focus at our at the program is poultry science, animal science and horticulture. And the reason we focus on those three aspects of agricultural sciences, because those are the three focuses in this general area. All the technical colleges have to prepare students for jobs in their service area. And our service area is an 11 county service area in northeast Georgia. And those are the agricultural industries that are most predominant in that area or in our area.

So all the courses.

Are taught face to face, although currently we're going through a transition because we're moving into our new campus in Alberta, in Georgia, and which will start teaching classes full time there in the fall. So although most of our classes are face to face, we're also offering the lecture component online and I expect to continue to do that into the future in an effort to try to meet the needs of some of our students that have a longer commute to Alberta than maybe to the local county people within our program. We have we have a strong emphasis on business, and then we ask the students to choose one of the tracks. So let me just try to explain what we have here. They associates of science and agricultural science degree includes several general education courses like math, English, a science, chemistry or biology. And then we also have several courses that are agricultural agriculturally related. So that includes what we call our agricultural core courses, which we have six courses that are included there, including Introduction to Agriculture and several business courses, leadership management, finance, because we expect our students to be leaders and to be in a management position. You know, I don't I'm not training students to be laborers. I mean, obviously, labor may be part of it, but that's not what I'm training students to do.

What's wonderful about Athens tech is the number of programs they can offer you. Let's hear from Mark McKinnon to begin to learn about the conservation law enforcement program.

Okay. My name is Mark McKinnon. I am the public affairs officer for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division. And what I do is, is I assist the game wardens in handling media relations and in dealing with the public. Also, I teach at the Academy of that exact thing and also I help them in the field when they need help with those promotional type things or their trade shows. And I spend a lot of time with them. And so I know a lot about what they do. And and I promote, you know, what they do because they do great work. And and that's important. And I think people need to know the great work that they do. I think a lot of people think that a game warden goes out and does nothing but fishing license and hunting licenses all the time. But they do way more than that for their communities and for the state in general. And that's what that's the message I'm trying to get out there, because I think it's important for the taxpaying public to know where their dollars are going for for Georgia game wardens and the great work they do here. Here are a few things that the game wardens do, and I will not be able to tell you everything they do. That is just so much fun. But their primary responsibilities are enforcing hunting laws, enforcing fishing laws, and also enforcing boating laws. And then they they as an extra thing they do all the time is providing public safety. They are peace officers, just like a state patrol officer or a deputy sheriff. They are all peace officers. They have full arrest powers. And so they enforce the laws. They can enforce any law. But their primary responsibility is fish. Fish and game laws and boating enforcement.

So, Mark, what are some qualities that make a great game warden.

A good candidate for a conservation law enforcement professional would be someone certainly who enjoys being outdoors. It's not someone who wants to be behind a desk. It's not someone who wants the same routine every day. You've got to be very flexible because there are such a wide variety of duties that you may be called to do. And so, you know, every day doesn't look the same. And you've got to have someone who can who can move with that and who can it can do that without having a problem. You know, a lot of people need real strict structure as far as their everyday duties. That's not the case here. One day you might be on the water in a boat doing boating enforcement. The next day you might be in court testifying in a case that you were involved in enforcing the law. And so, you know, it's back and forth. A lot of flexibility, a flexible schedule. You know, sometimes you may have to work at night, you may have to go out and do a night hunting detail. You know, it's against the law to hunt deer at night in Georgia, and sometimes they have to go out and enforce those things. So that's the type of person it is. But, you know, and you've got to be very a person who can talk to people very easily because you're going to talk to a lot of people every single day. And and, of course, we want people who have good character. We, of course, can't accept people who who have been convicted felons. You know, those that's a problem. You know, obviously. So someone who's looking to get into this program, you know, those are the things they need to prepare their lives a little earlier, you know, to get the education, which, of course, is what Athens, Turkey is is providing. If someone wants to jump in there, it's great program and. So that's that's kind of the way you prepare yourself. But it is it's got to be someone who's flexible and who who enjoys being with people. And also, keep in mind, you know, it is a law enforcement job. You know, law enforcement is not for everyone. And so it needs to be someone who wants to be in the law enforcement community and wants to to provide law enforcement. And so that that's the type of person.

To round out our conservation law enforcement program conversation. Let's bring in the program chair.

So my name is Lexi Goodman. I am the program chair of the Conservation Law Enforcement Associate Degree Program here, Athens TEC. I graduated from UGA in 2018 with a wildlife biology degree, and then I went to the vet school at Tufts University and got my master's degree there and decided that I wanted to work in a technical community college setting, teaching wildlife biology. And so then I ended up here I was interested in wildlife biology in general, really? Really. So my dad started taking me fishing where I pretty much could walk. And so I've been interested since then. And I think that we have a lot of complicated or complex conservation issues right now climate change, habitat fragmentation, you know, environmental justice issues, inequity issues in the environmental field. And so I think that those really complicated and complex issues are what drives me to, you know, and. You know, increase the field or increase the expertise in our field and kind of pursue the. Complex issues, too. That's complex questions, I guess. Our program is a interdisciplinary program with a combination of classes from our criminal justice program or the Criminal Justice Department, and some new courses in Fish and Wildlife Management. And so our program aims to give the future conservation officers and game wardens in Georgia a well-rounded education so they get a background in criminal justice and Fish and Wildlife Management. The people who go through the program, the goal is to start them in a game warden or Conservation Law Enforcement Training Academy. But if that for some reason doesn't work out, or if that isn't what they decide to do, hopefully we're getting to where our courses will transfer to a four year university. So that's one of my goals for the program. Or they could go on to do a number of things with their associate's degree so they could do some technician type jobs in conservation biology or something like that. A lot of our courses are they have a lecture component and then they have a hands on laboratory or field work component. And those are obviously my favorite things to teach. We spend at least one day outside every week doing something. For example, this week we'll be putting out some game cameras on the Alberton campus to see what wildlife we have on campus and use those as a tool for our students to learn how to process, gain camera photos, and as an outreach tool to show the other members of campus kind of what wildlife we're co-existing with here.

So finally, who should go into the conservation law enforcement program?

I think that just because of the nature of the job itself, so going out and you're doing a lot of your a lot of your even your police work, essentially it's police work. If you're a game warden, you're doing it usually in a kind of rural setting or in an outdoor setting. A lot of the stuff that they do is besides, you know, enforcing conservation laws and natural resource laws is doing like rescues and recoveries and things like that. Working on our beautiful bodies of water that we have in Georgia. And so if you don't enjoy being outside too much, I don't know if this would be the best thing for you. But, you know, you never know.

You might be considering taking on the agricultural science program or perhaps conservation law enforcement sounds more interesting. The fact is, no matter which program you choose, Athens Technical College will prepare you for future success. Thanks for listening. To achieve more with Athens Tech, the official podcasts of Athens Technical College. For more information, visit Athens Text Edu.