“Green Central” cultivates sustainable farms, energy & economic development

March 25, 2009 at 10:17 pm Leave a comment

Imagine a rural community college that offers an array of  “green” programs fostering sustainable farms, technology, buildings and energy.  That’s what has evolved at Central Carolina Community College in little ol’ Pittsboro, positioning the school to respond in innovative ways to the growing interest in green jobs to improve the local and national econony.

The college recently added a class on Sustainable Communities so students can learn about public policies that help or hinder “green” enterprises. An ecotourism class will start soon and a “natural chef” culinary arts program is planned. All of these programs will work together to train students for relevant work in our changing economy. And that should enhance Chatham’s potential for economic development. No wonder CCCC is becoming known as  “Green Central.” 

The greening of CCCC began in 1996 when the college became a national leader in sustainable agriculture education. In 2002, CCCC became the first community college in the country to offer a two-year associate of applied science degree in sustainable agriculture. It also offers certificates in sustainable vegetable production, sustainable livestock production, and agricultural sustainability, all at the Pittsboro campus. 

The program is attracting national attention.

“People throughout the country are realizing the importance of developing local food systems and training our next generation of farmers,” said Jim Riddle, Organic Outreach Coordinator at the University of Minnesota, who is familiar with Central Carolina Community College’s programs. “The college has been at the forefront in this area, long before it became popular. The sustainability programs at the college help protect land and water resources; provide safe, healthy and abundant food; preserve the area’s rich cultural heritage; and provide economic development opportunities. These efforts are needed now, more than ever.”

The agriculture program has attracted students of all ages from near and far. Mary Beth Bardin of Moncure already has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English from Carolina.  She enrolled in CCCC’s pioneering sustainable agriculture program because of her concern about the future of farming. Now she has an internship at the N.C. Farm Transition Network, a nonprofit organization that helps preserve farmland by linking would-be farmers with landowners who are willing to share or lease some of their property for farming at affordable rates.  

“Agriculture is an important part of North Carolina and I’m interested in the state’s food and public health,” she said as she planted onion bulbs at CCCC’s Land Lab farm in Pittsboro.

Erik Walton, of Pittsboro, is a student in the college’s permaculture class, learning how to create self-sustaining ecosystems by relying on renewable resources.

“I have my degree in geography from the University of Illinois, but I wanted to learn how to do sustainable farming,” he said. “While living in Illinois, I searched the Internet for a program and found Central Carolina’s. I moved here in 2006 to enroll. To me, most importantly, we’re learning how to treat the soil with respect. If people don’t learn how to do this, they’ll ruin the land for future generations, damage workers and consumers, and ruin the water.”

Learn more.

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