Agriculture in Our Roots and in Our Future
Agriculture has been a part of Berry since our earliest days. From the start, pragmatism and the educational needs of our students have determined its role. Agriculture was so significant at Berry in our early years that Martha Berry will soon be inducted in the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame. Nearly 50 years after Berry students last ate what was grown on college farms, one could wonder if agriculture will thrive at Berry in the 21st century.
The history of agricultural studies at Berry has been a history of continuing change. Berry's fifth president, Dr. John Bertand, a former agriculture school dean, was committed to a strong, balanced undergraduate college program. He transformed Berry into an accredited liberal arts college with professional programs in business and teacher preparation, one in which the agricultural sciences would eventually become a part of the natural science curriculum. Under Dr. Bertrand's leadership, the college moved from farming and production to classroom and laboratory studies in agriculture.
As early as 1915, Berry had a model farm program in which exemplary farming practices were carried out. A major in agriculture dates to 1930 and was offered until 1968. College catalogs from the early 1950s refer to a 50-acre vegetable garden and a 35-acre orchard, as well as beef, dairy, hog and poultry operations. The garden, orchard, hog and poultry operations ceased after Dr. Bertrand became president.
Berry introduced two-year certificate programs in animal, horticultural and dairy technology in the 1960s, converting them a decade later to two-year associate of science degree programs. The associate of science degrees were dropped in 1989. The bachelor of science degree with a major in animal science was begun in 1975, and ornamental horticulture became a major in 1989. By 1993, that major had been changed simply to "horticulture." The study of agriculture at Berry has thus evolved as the educational needs of our students - and the world in which our students live - have evolved.
Among recent changes in our animal science program was our decision in 2001 to devote the dairy herd to teaching and research rather than milk production. For a long period, the large, nationally recognized Berry dairy herd produced milk that was sold. In recent years, our faculty could not support the educational value of producing milk beyond our students' need to study animal science. Therefore we reduced the dairy herd to 20 cows and used the proceeds of the sale of stock to equip a contemporary teaching and research dairy at the Rollins Ruminant Research Center.
Berry has just appointed a specialist in plant science to our faculty who has held appointments in a school of agriculture and an agricultural extension service. Her arrival represents a shift from a concentration upon horticulture toward a focus upon plant science as well as teaching and research in agriculture. Berry students who wish to develop expertise in horticulture can gain valuable work experience on the college campus, at Oak Hill and in our horticultural greenhouses, as do about 80 students annually. The campus, Oak Hill and the college greenhouses represent wonderful learning laboratories.
The college still maintains a large Angus herd that produces about 120 calves annually. The cows exist for the academic program, and not vice versa. Students learn genetics, anatomy and physiology, and beef management from academic study as well as first-hand experience working with the cattle. We have a breeding program in our equine program that offers Berry students further laboratory opportunities. We also maintain 24 ewes, as Department Chair Allen Scott says, "To teach kids from inside the I-285 perimeter how to handle animals." Our students start small and work up from there.
Each year, four or five Berry students are accepted to veterinary medicine programs. They tend to rise to the top of their classes because of their excellent classroom education and frequent experience with animals. Students at Berry spend more time with animals than do many students in graduate animal science programs. About half of our animal science graduates eventually end up in graduate or professional study. For many years, animal science has been one of the most popular majors at Berry. We are confident that the new major that combines animal and plant science will be an even more popular choice for our students.
The Berry agriculture faculty is made up of five professors, three of whom have won campus awards for excellent teaching. The professors are assisted by seven staff members who manage dairy and beef operations, the equestrian center and horticultural greenhouses. These staff members serve as mentors and laboratory instructors to Berry students who learn from first-hand experience in our various agricultural operations. We anticipate making another agriculture faculty appointment in the future to strengthen an already fine academic program.
Berry is unusual in possessing a 28,000-acre environmental sciences laboratory. We have a fine new science building and a strong natural science program that is complemented by our strong program in agriculture. As long as the environment matters to us - that is, air quality, wise uses of water and land resources, waste management, as well as food production - then scientific study of agriculture will be important at Berry. Indeed, agricultural studies at Berry have never been stronger, and prospects for our second century look bright.
Dr. Scott Colley
Berry College President