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January 7, 2013

Grant to help SUNY Cobleskill develop food program

Staff Report
The Daily Star

---- —  SUNY Cobleskill is developing a bachelor’s program in food systems and technology, thanks in part to a federal grant of almost $140,000, a media release from the college said.

The project also includes some outreach programming for local farmers and agriculture businesses, the release from the State University College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill said. SUNY Cobleskill enrolls about 2,600 students.

“This is a natural fit for this campus,” Jason Evans, assistant professor at the college and project manager, said in a statement. “It is something we can be regionally competitive in.’’

Similar programs are opening at institutions “out west,’’ Evans said, and SUNY Coblskill’s project will help faculty develop long-term relationships with farmers and local agricultural people.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, which begins this month, lasts three years, the college release said. Much of the course development is planned for the first year, while pilot courses and electives will run through 2014. The final year includes completion of administrative items and formal marketing of the program.

“The design and implementation of a food system surely impacts diet, risk of food borne illness, economic development, business viability, air and water quality and the capacity of resources to feed and fuel growing populations,’’ the grant description said on the USDA website. “The nation’s agricultural and technical colleges must design and offer curricula that yield systems-minded, well-rounded professionals prepared for the demands of a globally critical and ever more dynamic food economy.’’

SUNY Cobleskill’s recent merger of its Agriculture Business and Culinary Arts programs into the Department of Food and Agriculture Business Management, helps with the creation of the new degree program, officials said.

“The beauty of the program is that we’ll be able to use a lot of existing courses and resources on campus,” Evans said.

Though existing courses will be used, the grant provides for 14 new classes, including seven lectures and five laboratories, among other academic programs. The curriculum is expected to lead to expanded career opportunities for undergraduate students, officials said.

Campus improvements, such as capital investments in dairy processing equipment and a Cobleskill retail facility, will be made to benefit the program throughout the grant period, the release said.