September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
"It's been in the works for a while," said Wade Gustafson, the dairy management instructor at Ridgewater College. "We are up to date."
Ridgewater's agriculture and vet tech departments on the Willmar campus underwent a facelift this past summer. When classes began on Aug. 26, students began using new and updated computer labs, two new agronomy classrooms, a grow room, a new dairy classroom, a larger dairy lab and two new shop classrooms.
For Gustafson, this is a welcome change.
"There is more room and the ability to have more hands-on farm projects is there now," Gustafson said. "It will provide a better experience and learning environment for the students."
With the new renovations, the dairy room has made better use of the space.
"It's a more usable classroom," Gustafson said. "It used to be an empty room with artificial walls and was used as more of a walk way."
The new classroom is equipped with other items to make teaching more interactive.
"We have the latest technology," Gustafson said.
The room has a smart board and will be receiving an Apple TV in October. This will allow Gustafson to hook up an iPad and use the dairy apps or demonstrate a concept with pictures taken on farm tours by projecting that on the screen.
"We are trending toward the use of iPads and e-books for the students," Gustafson said.
The new dairy lab is something Gustafson is excited to start using.
"It used to be a small closet," Gustafson said. "We were able to do hands on things but not at the scale we can now. We didn't have the room with the numbers we had. It's bigger and better."
Gustafson has wanted to bring in equipment such as a feeder wagon or a small manure spreader, but never had the space to do it. But with a full garage for a dairy lab, he now has that chance.
"I have the ability to bring in dairy equipment and even animals," Gustafson said. "I was using a lot of pictures before but it isn't the same as seeing it in person."
The artificial insemination class Gustafson teaches will benefit from the lab, providing more room for Breed'n Betsy, a training tool requiring a hose and water.
"I didn't have the facilities for that before," Gustafson said.
The students have already been able to use the new lab working on eight repro tracks, using the large particle size shaker boxes and even koster moisture testers since Aug. 26.
"There's just more room and storage space I didn't have before," Gustafson said. "There is even a vent system when we use the koster testers."
The dairy department renovations are not the only things that will benefit the dairy students. With the new grow room, Gustafson hopes his dairy students will be able to grow alfalfa, be able to determine stage of maturity and look at when to chop and cut the alfalfa.
There is also a classroom where students will be able to work with and learn how to set up tractor GPS systems.
"We are just going to be able to do better," Gustafson said. "It is providing us the ability to take what we are talking about and show more of it in class."
The dairy program has been established at Ridgewater in Willmar since the 1990s, and this year the agriculture department has nearly 236 students with 47 of them being dairy students.
"It is a high water mark for us," Gustafson said.
Gustafson is still helping his father and brother raise 1,600 dairy replacement heifers near Willmar, Minn., but is happy to be doing both farming and teaching dairy classes.
"I never dreamed I wanted to be a teacher," Gustafson said. "I'm not just teaching, but I am still doing it (farming), too."[[In-content Ad]]
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