NORFOLK, Neb. – Students enrolled in agriculture programs at Northeast Community College have new equipment waiting for them once they return to campus this fall.
Nebraska Harvest Center (NHC) is leasing a new tractor to the Northeast agriculture department at a negligible cost as part of an agreement between the two organizations. NHC is a division of CLAAS, one of the world's leading manufacturers of agricultural engineering equipment. An informal ceremony to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was held recently in Northeast’s Farm Operations Building on the Acklie College Farm in Norfolk.
The CLAAS Axion 820 series tractor donated to Northeast features a 117 in. wheelbase and a 215-horsepower engine. It includes features such as autosteer and is ready to be outfitted with technology used in the Northeast precision agriculture program. Students will have opportunities to use the tractor in classes and lab activities in the shop and on the college farm. The intent of the agreement is to exchange the tractor annually with another so the college and students can stay abreast of new technology.
Jill Heemstra, agriculture program director at Northeast, said students in the precision agriculture program will see benefits from having the new piece of equipment at the college.
“This tractor will allow our precision ag instructors to increase the opportunities for students to get hands-on time operating equipment and to have more for them to drive and work on,” Heemstra said. “It will also allow instructors Adam Wachter (precision ag) and Chris Burbach (ag technology) to develop lesson plans and activities where students compare and contrast different types of equipment. They will also be able to calibrate, troubleshoot and set up different types of equipment.”
Students in Northeast’s Precision Agriculture program develop technical skills and learn to interpret, analyze, and utilize data gathered from precision agriculture technologies to improve production. Graduates work as technicians and producers in a rapidly changing industry that is focused on maximizing yield potential through resource efficient practices.
Leif Magnusson, senior advisor and former president of CLAAS North America Retail, said the low-cost lease of the tractor to Northeast represents CLAAS’s investment in workforce development. He said representatives from industries like his continue to experience a lag in skilled labor, particularly in the ag technology sector.
“I think community colleges are a big contributor to addressing that side of it. And, especially from what I have seen here at Northeast Community College with the ag programs that are in place, you are really fulfilling a very important role in closing the skills gap,” Magnusson said. “By having this tractor at Northeast, it is an educational investment in students on innovative technology … and by having it here, we would like your students to learn about our company, our products, our people, and our culture of enabling farmers and ranchers to be the best in their field.”
Dr. Tracy Kruse, vice president of development and external affairs at Northeast, said the college is grateful for the use of this piece of equipment. She said Northeast values partnerships it has with members of business and industry like CLAAS.
“It’s about looking for opportunities to collaborate to make our organizations, programs, and businesses better. Without partnerships like these, our students may not get the exposure to some of these technological advances that are driving the industry forward,” Kruse said. “We are so excited to connect our students to industry leaders like CLAAS to see what opportunities they may have available to them post-graduation.”
Among those on hand for the presentation was Jason Coufal, territory sales representative for NHC in Wayne, Columbus, and Seward, who signed the MOU with Heemstra. Coufal graduated from Northeast where he majored in agriculture – crop production.
CLAAS of America is headquartered in Omaha. The family business, founded in 1913, has its corporate headquarters in Harsewinkel, Germany.
Leif Magnusson, senior consultant for CLAAS North America Retail (second from right) speaks on how Northeast Community College is addressing workforce development issues treated to a gap in skilled labor, particularly in the ag technology sector. Magnusson spoke prior to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Nebraska Harvest Center, a division of CLAAS, and Northeast on a low-cost lease of one of the company’s Axion 820 series tractors that will be used in Northeast’s precision agriculture program.