Starting this spring, York College will offer a new area of study. Building on the success of the existing business department, agriculture courses are being added to create an opportunity unlike any other in Nebraska: an agribusiness program in a Christian college setting. 

Stacie Turnbull, assistant professor, will be directing the new program, which grew out of conversations with local businesses and York College administrators. “So much of the area surrounding our campus is agriculture,” said Turnbull. “The need for many businesses in our area is employees with ag expertise and a four year degree. They have employees with two year degrees that can’t progress in the company without additional education.” Across Nebraska and throughout the U.S., there is a shortage of qualified employees in this industry. 

“They can’t fill all the positions with the current workforce. There are not enough students wanting to go into agriculture,” Turnbull said. This is especially true in the York area, where there is the added challenge of attracting a skilled workforce to a small town in a rural area.

Local industry partners, including banks and seed companies, are very excited about this new area of study at York College. Turnbull will teach some of the courses required for the degree and others will be taught by adjunct instructors from area businesses. “Our industry partners are the experts. They know what our students need to know. These are bright people with great skills – and a lot of knowledge to share with students,” Turnbull said.

The added benefit of working with these industry partners is that staying current in agricultural technology is very expensive. “No college can keep up with the cost of the rapidly changing technology, but our industry partners can. Our students will have access to the best and newest information and tools due to these partnerships.”
One core component of the program will be an emphasis on precision agriculture—self-driving tractors, GPS enabled sensors that can check crop nutrient and moisture needs, drone photography, and the like.

“Technology is making agriculture more efficient and more environmentally friendly,” said Turnbull, who gave the example of using drones to pinpoint where in a field there is a problem and treating only the affected section and not surrounding plants. This is what the future of agriculture will be, says Turnbull. Students will need to know about more than growing plants and animals to be successful in this arena. They also need to be equipped to handle developing technology and advanced mathematical modeling.

The key differentiator for the program will be the Christian element, said Turnbull. For students who want to pursue a degree in agriculture, but want to learn in a Christian environment, York College is their only option in Nebraska. York College is also the only college among Church of Christ schools to offer this degree, and one of only a few in the country. “We'll teach current agricultural skills - but with a knowledge of the gifts God has provided and a responsibility to sustain others,” said Turnbull.

The program at York College will be practical and hands-on, versus theoretical and research-focused. Students will graduate with the skills needed to make an impact in the industry immediately. A vital part of the agribusiness degree will be an internship with an area business where students will learn the day-to-day operations of different positions in the industry. 

For animal science classes, students will visit working farms in the area. There are hog and cattle operations as well as a number of hobby farms with sheep, goats, chickens, and horses in York County. There are also companies working with animal nutrition and health. York College’s small size is an asset in this venture, said Turnbull. “You can’t easily take 300 students on an industry tour. But you can take 10 and have a really great, interactive experience.”

Turnbull brings with her a wealth of knowledge, experience, and contacts. After earning a bachelor’s degree at UNL in agricultural education, she taught high school agriculture classes for a number of years and worked with the National FFA Organization. She completed a master’s degree at Iowa State University in agricultural education and is nearing completion of her PhD in the same field. She does consulting work for UNL’s Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, developing curriculum for high school classrooms in biotechnology and plant genetics. She is a frequent presenter on topics pertaining to biotechnology.

“I get really excited about agriculture,” says Turnbull, who touts the benefits of this kind of applied science education. Turnbull plans to work with other faculty members in a cross-disciplinary approach to infuse agriculture into every subject for students in her program. For example, in a statistics class, she could provide data from industry partners, so that students could work with real world models rather than hypothetical number sets. Papers and projects in other classes, from English to ethics, could have an agricultural component as well. 

For more information, contact Stacie Turnbull, program director, at or call (402) 363-5678.