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SIOUX CENTER, Iowa -- Dordt College last fall opened its new, larger Agriculture Stewardship Center.

Years in the making, the project reflects the rapid growth in the Sioux Center private college's agriculture programs.

“I'm thrilled for how this facility is going to promote hands-on experience, Joel Sikkema, director of the college's Professional and Technical, or Pro-Tech, program, said at an Oct. 22 dedication ceremony. "No other Christian college has spaces like these. With this building we’ve made the commitment that our program will not just influence hearts and minds, but enable them to serve with their hands."

The center will be used for instruction in ag, Pro-Tech, and engineering. It will also serve as a gathering place for Northwest Iowa's agriculture and business communities 

“We anticipate there will be several community events held here per month,” Howard Wilson, Dordt's vice president and chief administrative officer, said at the dedication. “We’ve been approached by implement manufacturers about using the space for training seminars. We see this as a future meeting place for the boards of local agriculture organizations as well.”

The main building – the anchor of the new center – includes a large gathering area capable of hosting 150 people. Local ag groups can hold meetings in this hall, giving students the opportunity to network with people in the industry.

The new center was built on the Broek Farm property. The 120-acre site on the north end of the Sioux County city, just off Highway 75, will serve as a "gateway" for the campus, Wilson said. 

The center features a steward’s house, a machine shed, a greenhouse, and a large cattle facility with a roof to shelter the animals in inclement weather. In addition, there is a processing lab where students can practice pregnancy checks, castration, and treatment of ill animals. The larger facilities also allows the college to expand both the number and type of livestock.

A high-bay space gives students earn more opportunities to repair and maintain multiple pieces of farm equipment. They will be able to become proficient with PTO shafts or at backing up a trailer safely – skills for which the previous facilities were not equipped.

“I’m thrilled for how this facility is going to promote hands-on experience," Sikkema said. "No other Christian college has spaces like these. With this building we’ve made the commitment that our program will not just influence hearts and minds, but enable them to serve with their hands.”

Nearly 500 students, alumni, faculty, staff, and community members gathered for the dedication of the new center last fall as part of Dordt’s 2018 Defender Days celebration. 

Gary De Vries, Dordt’s division chair for biology and environmental studies, said that the building provides a place that facilitates 21st-century learning, not just for Dordt students, but for others as well.

Two Dordt agriculture students shared their excitement about the center during the dedication.

“We as students have been anticipating this day for over a year,” said Alayna Gerhardt, Dordt’s ag club president. “We’ve eagerly watched the progress of this building."

Bryce Hiemstra, a Pro-Tech student, recalled his wonderful experience with Dordt’s agricultural internship opportunities.

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