Jon Jackson

Retired Army Ranger and Comfort Farms co-founder Jon Jackson inspects baby eggplants in an aquaponic growth plot.

Central Georgia Technical College is getting ready to roll out a new certificate program option aimed at those interested in pursuing work in sustainable farming. The Sustainable Small Farm and Agriculture Technician Technical Certificate of Credit (TCC) is the latest development in CGTC’s AG Tech to Success Program. A recently released press release from CGTC announced the new program, which will begin with its first cohort of students in January 2021.

The new TCC will include 17 credit hours of coursework exploring such topics as agribusiness, sustainable agriculture, farm organization and management, small-scale food production and a study of the animal industry. Co-curricular activities such as workshops, webinars, guest lectures and farm visits will also be part of the program.

The new program is the result of an ongoing partnership between CGTC, Fort Valley State University and STAG Vets Inc. of Baldwin County. Each of the organizations received grant funding to help make the new certificate program a reality. 

“The project procured National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant funding to each member of the partnership, and more than $390,000 will be allocated to CGTC over three years to cover costs associated with developing the new program just like the food it hopes to produce; from the ground up,” according to the CGTC press release.

The creation of the Sustainable Small Farm and Agriculture Technician TCC will help to meet the goals set forth by CGTC’s AG Tech to Success Program to train veterans for careers in sustainable agriculture. Another goal of the program is to ensure food security on the state and national levels by training individuals in the skills and technologies needed to support small farms throughout Georgia. 

The AG Tech to Success Program was founded by minority, disabled veteran L. Jonathan Jackson. Through his non-profit, STAG Vets, Inc., Jackson created a crisis agriculture center in Baldwin County named Comfort Farms. Comfort Farms services veterans transitioning to civilian life through therapeutic programming and training in sustainable agriculture. By offering these services, Jackson aspires to meet agricultural needs in Georgia while also training veterans for post-military careers in farming. Comfort Farms will be one of the lab spaces for the new certificate program, along with Fort Valley State’s farmland.

The Sustainable Small Farm and Agriculture Technician TCC will involve a mixture of on-site training, online learning, and coursework on Central Georgia Technical College’s Milledgeville campus.

Ret. Col. Patricia Ross is the chief executive officer of CGTC’s Georgia Veterans Career Transition Resource (VECTR) center. VECTR offers programs for veterans, active duty military and their families to train in various technical areas. The goal of VECTR is to help military personnel transition into new careers in their civilian life. Ross says that the new program is another example of how innovative partnerships can bring such programs to life.

“Receiving this grant is the great beginning to a very innovative and ambitious course of study that will benefit Georgia’s veteran student population, food and agriculture industry, and the consumer,” said Ross. “STAG Vets, FVSU, VECTR, and CGTC are excited to begin putting all the right steps in motion for more opportunities for our veterans and their families.”

While the new program is part of CGTC’s overall efforts to provide training opportunities for veterans, the program is open to anyone who wishes to apply.

Dr. Tatrabian Jackson, director of CGTC’s Milledgeville campus, is happy to offer a program that will have direct benefits not only to the students it educates but to the entire middle Georgia area.

“Farming and food production are such vital industries to central Georgia,” said Jackson. “What is even more distinct is for the college to be able to bring such a new, exciting, and fulfilling Sustainable Small Farm and Agriculture program to the community while continuously focusing on supporting our veterans.” 

Those interested in learning more about the program can visit www.centralgatech.edu/agtech for details.

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