The building where the new ag program at Corban University will be held. (Courtesy/Corban University)

Corban University, a private Christian university in south Salem, is adding a new 4-year agricultural science degree program to its roster next year, contributing to a growing agricultural education sector in the Willamette Valley.

The program will start in fall 2022.

Susie Nelson is directing the program and hopes to have about 20 students enroll.

Nelson was hired in August and said she’s planning and developing courses ahead of the semester starting. She said the classes will cover the basic concepts of agriculture, from animal science to crop science and soil science.  

“Basically, covering from the ground up in growing and raising almost all things we consider food,” she said.

The new program comes as other area schools have also expanded their agricultural offerings. Chemeketa Community College recently completed work on an agricultural complex and plans to offer additional programs beyond its existing horticulture degree. 

A sustainable plant technology program was one of the last additions to the Salem-Keizer School District’s Career Technical Education Center, opening in the fall of 2020.

Nelson said there are a lot of farm families in the area who might want to have their kids attend a Christian school to learn about agriculture.

Some may return to the farm. Other might go on to a career in farm machinery, fertilizers or looking at crop health.  

“Ag covers a wide range of different job opportunities. All the way from the beginnings at the farm to the packaging and marketing product at the other side of it,” she said.  

She said the classes will give students an option beyond secular schools, for those who want to learn from a Biblical perspective.

“All schools have a basis in evolution theory. It’s refreshing to have an alternative in the creation theory,” she said. 

It will be the first ag program at a Christian school west of the Rockies, the university said in an announcement about the program.

Nelson said she’s always been in ag education. She graduated from Oregon State University and taught at the high school level for three years. 

After raising her kids, she went on to get her PhD in agricultural education at Oregon State and came to Corban to start the new program. 

Nelson said she enjoys teaching people about where their food comes from, how to care and raise different livestock and even home gardening.

She’s dabbled in a lot of it, she said. 

She has a small hobby farm in Lebanon where she raises beef cows, horses, goats, pigs, chickens and sheep.

“And, of course the dogs and cats,” she added.

Nelson said eventually the school plans to build a new science lab that the ag program will also be able to use. Greenhouses could be in the future as well. 

Susie Nelson, the director of the new agricultural program at Corban University which will start in fall 2022. (Courtesy/ Corban University)

Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected] 

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