by David Bowman, workforce specialist, Lincoln Land Community College
Agricultural runoff of various chemicals and nutrients into the local watershed is of concern now and in the future, to both farmers, who know the importance of keeping nutrients in their fields, and the general public, who drink the water.
Lincoln Land Community College (LLCC) is known statewide for its strong agriculture program. Because of this, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville invited LLCC, along with three other community colleges (Lewis and Clark, Carl Sandburg and Southeastern Illinois) to join “Building the Illinois Bioeconomy,” a consortium project funded through a multimillion dollar federal grant.
LLCC’s portion of this bioeconomy project focusses on agriculture and its effect on the water supply. Lake Springfield will be our laboratory. We are working with City, Water, Light and Power (CWLP) and other employers to develop training in nutrient loss reduction and sediment retention. Skills gained will enable students to better manage watersheds down to small bodies of water – on farms, subdivisions and other urban areas – that all, in some way, impact our water supplies. The health of that water and those who ultimately impact its quality are our focus.
Specifically, LLCC is planning for two new occupational programs. “Agricultural watershed management” will focus on the rural components of a watershed, and is designed for current and future farm owners, farm operators, and farm-fertilizer service technicians. The other program, “Landscape lake/basin management,” will focus on urban/suburban landscapes, and target current and future lake/basin owners, homeowner associations with these landscape features, and landscape/lawn service technicians.
Both new programs will include classes in conservation practices, nutrient use efficiencies, and ever-changing rules, regulations and guidelines. While still early in the new program development and approval process, several academic awards are being envisioned, including short-term certificates of achievement.
Recently, LLCC hosted a portion of the Springfield Watershed Bus Tour where visitors viewed our ag department’s new bio-reactor project. Ag faculty are using this new technology, provided by grants from several local ag businesses and organizations, to research best practices for reducing nutrient runoff into Lake Springfield. Ag classes also plan to plant various cover crops this fall to test their effectiveness in reducing nutrient runoff.
The Lake Springfield watershed is very fortunate to have embraced its nutrient loss dilemma early-on. And thanks in great part to the tireless efforts of many individuals and companies, all partners of the watershed will be the benefactors of such stewardship.
The significant combination of LLCC teaching precision agricultural technologies, and working to develop programs in advanced agricultural watershed management, will have a permanent and lasting impact on all watersheds in our district.
And, the U.S. Department of Labor has indicated its intent to share these new programs across all of Illinois’ community colleges, and the entire country.
For more information, contact David Bowman, LLCC workforce specialist, at 786.2317.