Richland Community College and eight additional colleges in the Community College Alliance for Agriculture Advancement (C2A3) will receive $529,924.48 over the course of the next four years as part of a cooperative agreement issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS).

The nine Midwestern community colleges that make up the Alliance boast strong agricultural programs and traditions. The consortium was developed under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the USDA-NRCS and USDA North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (USDA-SARE).

The main objective of the agreement is to realize a shared goal of ensuring quality education and training of field practitioners. By establishing a collaborative framework for cooperative activities, these partners will enhance and accelerate training and adoption of technologies and best practices for improved agricultural productivity and natural resources stewardship.

A key component of this agreement is hands-on learning in the field, utilizing college land resources to model best practices. Faculty and students will work with NRCS field office staff to implement a conservation plan, install practices on the ground, collect data and help inform current and future producers.

Richland Community College agriculture program faculty and staff will be working with the local NRCS staff, as well as, the Macon County Soil and Water Conservation District staff to educate students and producers in Macon County and the surrounding areas.

Jess Smithers, Director of Agricultural Programs at Richland Community College, said, “we look forward to this collaboration as it will allow us to further utilize the colleges’ farmland resources to research practical best management practices related to soil health”.

The goal is not only to accelerate the adoption of conservation practices through the education of current, two-year agriculture students, but to also disseminate information to the broader community through field days and other college events and partnerships. Students enrolled in the agriculture program at Richland Community College will take an active role in the project. At Richland, students have several degree options available to them. An Associate of Arts/Science in agriculture is available for students planning to transfer to a four-year college. In addition, a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree is offered with specializations in Agribusiness, Agronomy and Horticulture.

The C2A3 collaboration was born out of a mutual desire to provide more ongoing education, training and demonstration to future farm producers and agricultural service providers with the goal of improving the health, and therefore the long–term productivity, resilience and sustainability of the soil.

Ivan Dozier, Illinois State Conservationist, said “NRCS sees these new agreements as an excellent opportunity to build awareness, improve technical skills, and strengthen our shared ability to secure soil resources for agriculture here in Illinois and across the Midwest.”

In addition to working together on applied research projects that advance student learning on their college farms, member institutions partner with one another to share resources, faculty expertise, curriculum and tools which will advance the future of agriculture production in this country.

The mission of Richland Community College is to empower individuals through learning and to forge partnerships that grow communities. For more information, visit

The Richland Community College Agriculture program is comprised of an Associate in Arts (transfer degree) and Associate in Applied Science degrees in Agribusiness, Crop Science, and Horticulture. Richland’s campus includes 40+ acres of farmland, we are the host of the Farm Progress Show every other year, and we are located in the Agribusiness capital of the world, all which help enable the agriculture program to meet our mission of exposing, preparing, and connecting students to careers in Agriculture.