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Alissa Donnell

JCC’s Agri-Business Program Takes Root with Alissa Donnell

When thinking about agri-business, you might think of someone having a family farm background.  Not so with Jefferson’s agri-business instructor Alissa Donnell. She grew up in Liverpool, New York without any knowledge of agriculture education when she began college at the University of Delaware.  She has always had a love of animals, especially horses, and discovered agriculture education while at Delaware and discovered this was her calling. She graduated with her bachelor in science degree in 2001 and accepted a management position with Hallston Manor, an equine facility in Clay, New York.  After a year working with horses, she accepted an agriculture teaching position at Carthage High School, a job she enjoyed for 8 years.  Alissa loved teaching and quickly became vested in each and every student. “I had an awesome biology teacher when I was in 7th grade, and she really inspired me, I wanted to inspire my students as well in that same way,” she said. During her time at Carthage, Alissa earned her master’s degree in education at SUNY Potsdam through the Jefferson Higher Education Center and in 2013, was hired as the agriculture business instructor for the College. “Working at Jefferson has exceeded my expectations. I love the mix of students here and their willingness to learn at any age; some right out of high school, some in the middle of a career change, it’s truly amazing,” she added.  

Addressing the misconceptions about what agri-business is, is one of Alissa’s greatest challenges. People commonly think of agri-business as farming, however the program developed at Jefferson focuses on creating future employees to work in the industry who supply the farmers. “Only 2% of our population are farmers, the numbers continue to grow for workers in food service, marketing, suppliers and the business end of agriculture,” she said.  

Alissa is known on campus as being a dynamic, caring and passionate instructor who is eager to help educate her students and grow this new program. “Within the last decade there have been so many changes in this industry; people are more interested in where our food comes from, sustainability, food miles and what effect agriculture has on our environment. This has caused the industry to change and look at itself and figure out how to be better,” she said.  “For every 5 positions available in agri-business, there are only 4 graduates, so I like to encourage my students to explore all their options. There are so many opportunities and different careers in this industry.”  

An awareness of and appreciation for agriculture is one of Alissa’s main goals for all her students to take away from her agri-business courses. “As a society, we really take for granted our food sources; and I teach my students that we should appreciate all the people who work so hard in this industry; it’s because of them that we can eat every day.”

Learn more about Jefferson’s agri-business degree program.

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