Lethbridge College's new Agricultural Enterprise Management program is designed for the future business leaders of Canada's agricultural industry.

Dennis Sheppard, the college's Dean for the Centre of Applied Management, says the two-year program is designed to fill a training gap between programs that focus solely on either agriculture or business.

The curriculum covers what Sheppard calls the "field to table" value chain. "It focuses on the skills you need to run and grow an agricultural business," he says.

The program was launched following a $5 million gift from Alberta agricultural entrepreneur Cor Van Raay. The funds were split between Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge to build a collaborative educational program that draws on each institution's strengths. For the college, that's its expertise in agricultural education, and for the university, its Faculty of Management. The diploma program includes a mix of face-to-face, blended, and online courses.

"Students take courses at both institutions whether they’re doing a diploma at the college or completing the major in Agricultural Enterprise Management within the Faculty of Management at the University of Lethbridge," says Sheppard.

Diploma graduates can go on to earn a bachelor's degree with an Agricultural Enterprise Management major from the university.

The program's curriculum was designed after meeting with agricultural entrepreneurs and innovators as well as and professionals serving the industry to gather their input. They were asked what skill sets graduates needed to be competitive in today's agricultural management workforce.

"The diploma has both academic and experiential learning components covering the full continuum of agriculture," says Sheppard. "We offer courses that provide outcomes in foundational agricultural sciences through to enterprise level management."

Agricultural Enterprise Management students receive training in a wide variety of areas that are highly valued by the industry. After finishing the diploma program, graduates will have skills in agricultural production, commodity marketing, value-added and sustainable agriculture, distribution, and finance.

"There’s a focus on understanding and interpreting market environments," says Sheppard. "This includes understanding how policies and regulations affect decisions that you make in the field or in the operation."

He adds that students gain a strong understanding of the upstream production work of agriculture, including how to best add value to Canadian agricultural products.

For students who pursue the degree option, the additional coursework provides them with further training in the downstream work of getting agricultural products to the end consumer. This includes subjects like finance, marketing, and risk management. Graduates leave the program with a broad understanding of agricultural producers and the markets they sell to.

Sheppard adds that industry-focused co-curricular experiences, including expert speakers and visits to off-site operations, help students apply what they learn to real-world situations.

After graduating, students will be poised for a large number of career roles in agricultural businesses — from working at a family enterprise to finding roles in middle or senior management at operations both upstream and downstream along the rapidly growing agriculture value chain.

You can learn more about pursuing an education in Agricultural Enterprise Management at Lethbridge College by visiting lethbridgecollege.ca.