Triton College has expanded and revised its Horticulture program to focus on Sustainable Agriculture and Sustainable Landscaping to meet the needs of a green economy and diminishing critical ecological resources. With assistance from Career Pathways, it added two new applied associate degree programs in Sustainable Agriculture Technology and Sustainable Landscape Practices. It also has two new stackable certificates in Sustainable Food Production and Sustainable Agroecology. The revised and new courses are offered online and in hybrid formats, a great benefit for working professional students that have less time available for travelling to campus. Also textbooks are rarely used as courses take advantage of open source resources.
“We are very proud of what our students have achieved and appreciate the support from Career Pathways, most of our students have jobs or internships before even completing a certificate,” says Ben Newton, Sustainable Agriculture Grant Coordinator.
Everardo Meza Jr., who is enrolled in the Sustainable Agriculture Technology AAS program, is employed as a Seasonal Horticulturalist with Oak Park Conservatory and Park District. He is involved in the planning, care, maintenance of all annual and perennial planting beds, and shrubs at all parks within the District. “My coursework in the sustainable ag program gave me a great foundation and specific skills that my employer wanted for its new hires to have,” says Everardo.
Zach Taylor finished a certificate in Sustainable Agroecology. “He did this almost entirely online and only needed to attend for hands on labs, “says Newton. Zach is now working full time this summer as the Conservation Director for Friends of the Forest Preserves.
With Zach’s assistance Triton’s Sustainable Horticulture program is in discussion to partner with Green Corps project managers and trainee graduates to continue their education after completing their Green Corps program. About 90 percent of the Green Corps trainees are ex-offenders from low income communities who perform ecological restoration and invasive species management in Cook County.
The college, located in River Grove, has promoted the innovative new programs with postings on various websites and social media as well as flyers and at industry meetings. It also is working with local businesses, non-profits, and 4 year academic institutions to bolster the program.