GRAND ISLAND, NE – The “world’s largest totally irrigated farm show” served as a perfect backdrop for Northeast Community College to showcase one of its newest programs as well as its students. Northeast has had a presence at Husker Harvest Days in Grand island for a number of years, but in 2018, the College added an outdoor exhibit in addition to staffing its regular indoor booth.
“This is the first year we had our Precision Ag simulator trailer and some mobile trainings that feature the use of our two-row planter our staff built and a spray application simulator,” said Corinne Morris, dean of agriculture, science and math. “The two-row planter sparked the curiosity of several producers and industry people who stopped to ask how we are using it. They seemed to be impressed to learn that we use it to demonstrate several aspects of precision planting.”
The Precision Agriculture Learning (PAL) simulator is outfitted with multiple hands-on mobile training modules to train current and future producers. The simulator is an integral part of a three-year, $785,000 grant awarded to the College by the National Science Foundation. Northeast purchased a trailer to transport the PAL simulator and its modules to educational trainings and events across the College’s 20-county service area and beyond.
“In this next year, we’ll be visiting area high schools as well as offering customized training for producers and those in industry through Northeast’s precision agriculture program … and the PAL simulator will be a big part of that,” Morris said.
Husker Harvest Days is a good opportunity that allows high school students and producers to see what the College has to offer. Many schools send students in their agriculture-related classes and FFA programs to practice their networking skills.
“We already have a great relationship with all of the FFA groups and Husker Harvest Days is another way for us to meet with many of those students. This setting allows us to have more casual one-on-one conversations with potential students and find out what their individual goals are. In turn, it allows them to be engaged and develop their own communication skills when they speak to people like us.”
Morris said it’s not easy for some students to make those initial contacts.
“But they see places like Northeast Community College as already a ‘friendly place.’ They may start by coming up to booths like ours before they stop at a business because we look familiar to them. That’s why we’re here … we’re here to help.”
Morris said Husker Harvest Days is also a time for she and her faculty and staff to network with business and industry representatives as they work with the students in preparing them to become their future employees.
In addition to the agriculture programs, Northeast also sent representatives from its applied technology division. Those stopping by the outdoor booth had the opportunity to try their hand at welding through the College’s welding simulator, see high performance engines and participate in a diesel challenge where students competed against one another in disassembling a diesel engine and putting it back together.
“The hands-on events presented a terrific opportunity to showcase various careers and gave visitors a taste of a career they might not have given much thought to,” said Shanelle Grudzinski, associate dean of applied technology at Northeast.
Inside the West Diversified Industries Building, Brad Ranslem, director of recruitment, and Anthony Faust, recruiter, visited with high school students and the general public in providing additional information on the College.
“I had multiple people go out of their way to personally stop at our booth and give positive feedback about Northeast and acknowledging that we are a great option for students,” Ranslem said. “It’s not uncommon for generations of families to attend Northeast. There were parents of current and former students that told us how much they loved Northeast when they attended and that their kids love it, too.”
Husker Harvest Days organizers say approximately 100,000 people attend the three-day show each year.