Agriculture facilities dedicated in honor of Tom McCall at Athens Technical College
The Tom McCall Agriscience Complex was officially dedicated inside the new livestock arena on Friday, March 31 at Athens Technical College’s Elbert County Campus.
Then two new buildings which totaled over $8.5 million, include labs for horticulture, poultry science, animal science, agricultural mechanics and wildlife conservation spanning over 27,000 sq. ft. A separate greenhouse complex was built for horticulture instruction.
The space includes multiple office spaces, a conference room and an outdoor patio overlooking the pond for students to gather and study. The arena, which held its first diary show in January, will serve as a community space for many young people including 4-H and FFA participants.
“Tom has always taken our needs under consideration and assisted us in meeting workforce needs,” said ATC President Andrea Daniel, who emceed the event. “He understands our important role of educating the workforce in an applied way. I believe that is because he is wise, a farmer, and a passionate supporter of technical education.
Other guest speakers included former Governor Nathan Deal, Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper, Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) Commissioner Greg Dozier, Rep. Rob Leverett and Rep. Houston Gaines.
“It’s always good to see facilities like this that emphasize the importance of education,” said Deal. “It’s education — the understanding of things we have not understood in the past — that will continue to move us forward. We cannot always rely on what we have relied on in the past. And if you don’t think things are changing, just look around…we have become a very different society. This facility here will give [students] hands-on, practical training for what will keep them occupied and able to support their family.”
Gaines, Leverett and Harper all spoke about their time in the state legislature and how much McCall made a personal impact in their lives and throughout the state.
“I leaned on Tom McCall a lot. Tom and I were in the foxhole quite a few times,” Harper recalled. “There’s nobody I would have rather had in the foxhole with me when it comes to supporting our state’s No. 1 industry than Tom McCall…I know he had my back every step of the way.”
Dozier echoed the work McCall did in the legislature for over 25 years and the influence he had across Georgia.
“When you look at what the chairman [McCall] did not just in agriculture but you look at what he did across this entire state, you look at economic prosperity of every individual…that changes communities, that changes hometowns, and that changes the state as a whole,” said Dozier. “So, when we see your name on this building, and I know that’s something you probably don’t care about as everyone has said, I think that puts the expectation on the quality, it puts the requirements and the rigor of those that are attending here, and those that hire somebody that comes out of the facility knows that the skill they’ve got is going to match the needs in this state. And it represents all the hard work that you’ve personally done.”
McCall thanked ATC President Daniel, his colleagues from time in the state legislature, Georgia Farm Bureau, where he has served as president since 2020, and most of all, his family for supporting him over the years.
“Y’all are sitting on the most beautiful college campus—not just a technical college campus—I think, in the state of Georgia,” McCall told the large crowd of attendees. “Hopefully, we’ll start turning out a lot of agriculture-thinking, new-idea minds here. And you know what the good part is? The students that graduate from here, we’re not worried about them paying their student loans back. That’s the beauty of the technical college system, they turn out people with skills for a job that is needed by everybody.”
Graduates from the associate degree program are prepared to enter management positions or start their own companies. Some have been employed by companies such as Centurion Poultry, Pilgrims, the United States Department of Agriculture, James Greenhouses, and many others, along with those who have started their own businesses to meet local food needs.
“Georgia needs well-trained people to enter agriculture – people who understand both the science and business sides of agriculture and have the hands-on skills necessary to hit the ground running. These new buildings will help us to meet those needs,” said program chair Chris Morgan, who started the program nearly a decade ago at the Athens campus. “I’m excited about the future of Georgia, the opportunities for Georgia agriculturalists to meet the needs of a growing population, and the multitude of career prospects our students will have.”
Alongside the agriculture program, a new associate degree program was created last year that combines criminal justice and wildlife courses to train budding technicians and public safety officers.
“The facilities also allowed us to create a new program in conservation law enforcement, which was specifically requested by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources,” said Daniel. “This unique program prepares graduates to meet the demand for DNR officer positions throughout the northern region.”
Alexia Goodman is the program chair and instructor for the program, which will have its first graduate this fall. The interest in the program has been strong with over 20 students enrolled in the second year of the program.
For information about the agriculture program, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For reservations for the McCall Arena, call ATC Economic Development at 706-369-5875.
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For more information, please contact Josh Paine, Executive Director of PR & Institutional Advancement at (706) 583-2552 or jpaine@AthensTech.edu.