ROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times
The campus at Seward County Community College is always seeing improvements, and in recent years, the school’s ag department has seen some big changes.
SCCC Ag Instructor Will Milashoski was on hand at the Seward County Farm Bureau annual meeting earlier this month to talk about some of those changes.
Milashoski first looked at the amount of money invested in greenhouses at the department.
“We’re pouring about $15,000 into our greenhouses to get them back up to standards,” he said. “We’re getting the cooling pads back up and going, get the pad pumps back to where they’re actually functional and we can grow crops.”
Milashoski said greenhouses not up to standard did cause some problems at the end of the 2022-2023 school year.
“We did a spring plant sale this past year, but when exhaust fans don’t work and they decide to kick on in the middle of the night in February and it gets to about 45 degrees in there, those plants that were loving the 80 degree weather really don’t like the 40s,” he said. “There’s a handful that froze up on us.”
Milashoski also looked at farm animals now being housed at the ag department.
“There’s a walking path around the college out there by the ag building,” he said. “We have an acre and a half of pasture out there where we currently house nine goats and a donkey and about eight chickens. There’s two sheep out there that are used for class purposes as well. We actually have purchased another six goats. By next year, come breeding season, we’ll have more than 20 goats.”
SCCC recently made headlines with the installation of a grain elevator site on its campus. Milashoski said the site is home to three small grain bins which hold about 300 bushels each.
“We have a scale house going up that’s getting wired,” he said. “We’re still waiting on scales from Skyland (Grain). Once it’s actually up and running, we will be able to train for co-ops for them to go back into the workforce and actually be there at those sites and facilities. They can send those kids here for some training.”
Milashoski said students can now also receive their training to help them meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards, as well as training fix and run facilities such as grain elevators.
Milashoski’s primary job at SCCC, though, is as the school’s livestock judging coach, and after that program had been down for a few years, he is now bringing it back to the standards it held in the past.
“We now have eight freshmen on campus, and they range all the way from Orange County, Calif., to San Antonio up to north of Denver in Loveland, Colo.,” he said. “We have pulled kids from all across the nation. We already have one signed for next year coming out of Arizona. We recruit nationwide now, and we have brought students in from North Carolina. We have some coming to visit from West Virginia. We’re exposing the entire country to this little part of Kansas.”
Milashoski said when parents and youth get to SCCC, both realize what a nice place Southwest Kansas is for education.
“A town of 20,000 people doesn’t scare parents very much,” he said. “It’s nice, and it’s an easy environment to send your kids to, rather than send them off to a four-year university where they’re one of 15,000 incoming students. They’re treated a little differently here. We make every visit personal. We bring them, we show them around campus ourselves. We don’t even send them for admissions.”
Milashoski next looked at some of the other production agriculture taking place at SCCC.
“We do have a soybean crop there on campus,” he said. “We have that in part with a soybean grant. There’s subsurface drip irrigation. I like to say we do things in a very green way and not just the Seward way. We found a way to do things here that have been very sustainable and also very economical and work for us.”
Milashoski said soybeans are planted using subsurface drip irrigation in as much of a water efficient manner as possible.
“We harvest those,” he said. “We put them in our own grain bin system there that we’re going to train kids on.”
SCCC likewise has a biodiesel site on campus, where Milashoski said soybeans can be used to make that fuel.
“We can run the biodiesel in our truck driver training trucks as soon as this newest grant is approved, and we take the waste from the biodiesel production and feed it to our goats,” he said. “The waste from our goat pins goes back out on to the soybean fields and the cycle continues. We’re self-sustaining. We’re all right there on campus. It ties everything up in a nice bow. There’s no waste.”