MIDLOTHIAN — Navarro College in Midlothian has rolled out a new area of study this semester for students who have an interest in the fields of agriculture and business. An Agribusiness degree provides students with the opportunity to explore different career paths, according to Navarro College Midlothian Campus Dean Dr. Alex Kajstura

“The Midlothian Higher Education Center is excited about offering the associates of science and bachelor's of science degrees in agribusiness right here in Midlothian. Because agribusiness is a targeted occupation of the North Central Texas Council of Governments that includes Ellis County, the new associate degree in agribusiness links to and partners with the bachelor’s degree from Tarleton State University and provides a straight line for degrees that will prepare students for known high employment opportunities,” Kajstura said. “With so much interest in agribusiness at area high schools, we feel that Navarro College can provide an easy step for students interested getting a college degree with high employment opportunities close to home at the Midlothian Campus.”

Kajstura said Navarro would be working with the Midlothian Independent School District to have secondary school students take part in this program. He hopes that there will be some high school students enrolled in these course during the spring semester.

According to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, the 29,920 farmers and farm employees in the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) region produced an annual average of $1.2 billion in agricultural products between 2005 and 2008. This agricultural production has since multiplied to an estimated $1.9 billion annual economic contribution in the region. Production agriculture also contributed more than 31,596 jobs to the area.

Agribusiness professor Elizabeth Matteson shared Kajstura’s thoughts on what opportunities that this program provides to students.

“What we are focusing on is a nontraditional agricultural compared to what we used to talk about farming and ranching,” Matteson said. “Now we are giving students ways to make a living other than farming and ranching. We are giving them some alternatives.”

Matteson said during the month of October students have been studying the impact of raising pumpkins in Texas. Texas ranks No.4 in the U.S. for growing pumpkins to the tune of 2.4 million future jack-o-lanterns or pies, and 90 percent of those pumpkins are grown in East Texas.

Matteson said Professor Dr. Steve Thompson grew the pumpkins, which provided students with hands-on learning opportunity rather than just studying from the textbook.

According to the Navarro College website, some of the job fields students could go into with this degree include resource development and management, parks, recreation and tourism resources, agriscience horticulture, forestry, food science, fisheries and wildlife, agribusiness, management, packaging and building construction management.

For more information about the Agribusiness program go to the Navarro College website at www.navarrocollege.edu.

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