Hartnell College leveraged support from the NSF ATE program to advance agricultural sciences technician training by implementing a food safety facilities technician program and seed science technician program. The proposal will: build on current programs and infrastructure to develop two high skill, high demand agricultural science technician programs that meet current industry need; link the project to high schools using a modified 2+2 structure, with a university transfer option; assist industry to better respond to changing environmental and regulatory conditions; leverage successful ATE models for high skill STEM technician training program development; and help the nation improve its food production and food safety capabilities.

Hartnell College, an accredited California Community College and Hispanic/Veterans Serving Institution, is the only public institution of higher education exclusively serving Salinas and the 1,000 square mile Salinas Valley. It enrolls over 14,000 students (Fall, 2015 est.) and offers quality academic, vocational, and job training programs. Hartnell is the only affordable postsecondary option for a growing population of underserved, underrepresented and low income students in the region. The College has had great success increasing and supporting its nontraditional student body which is 73 percent Latino/a, 50 percent female, and 56 percent first generation. ii Nearly 41 percent of the students are non-native English speakers. Ninety percent (90%) of all students receive financial aid (Hartnell Financial Aid data, 2015).

Hartnell Community College District serves a population that is majority Latino/a (75%), followed by white (15%) (U.S. Census 2010; ACS, 2013).iii The unemployment rate seasonally varies from 10-18 percent, higher than California’s rate of 6.5 percent (California Employment Development July, 2015). The poverty rate for the Salinas Valley is over 20 percent (U.S. Census). Low-income families make-up nearly 50 percent of the entire population. More than 45 percent of residents have less than a high school education; only 13 percent have completed college.iv

The Salinas Valley, Monterey County, CA, is the fourth most productive agricultural region in the nation with a production value of $4.5 billion, and generating $8.1 billion in total economic activity. v Referred to as the “salad bowl of the world,” the Salinas Valley leads the nation in the production of leaf lettuce, head lettuce, celery, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, packaged vegetables, as well as other fruit and vegetable crops. Roughly 80 percent of the nation’s spinach and leafy greens, fresh and packaged, come from the Salinas Valley (California Agriculture Resource Directory). In addition, the region is home to a major segment of the seed industry with more than a 100 companies within 150 miles.

Project deliverables: