SHERIDAN — Agriculture has become big business, and it requires the next generation to have a strong grasp on the science of crops and livestock. 

Sheridan College staff members believe their curriculum should keep up with the newest trends. Now, they believe the college has a building that can do just that. 

The Mars Agriculture Center will open its doors to students and faculty beginning Jan.17 — just in time for the spring semester.

While the new building creates room for more students, the features the building has to offer impress college officials the most. 

The 16,500 square foot building includes two flexible labs, one herbarium, five classroom and learning spaces, a commodities trading room and 2,880 square feet of greenhouse space outside the main building. Several faculty offices will be hosted within the building, as well. 

“The Mars Agriculture Center will play a central role in our growing agriculture programs,” Sheridan College Facilities Director Kent Andersen said.

“It is true that agriculture classes of today don’t resemble the classes from years ago,” he added. “The herbarium, greenhouses, flexible labs and commodities training classrooms are state-of-the-art learning spaces.”

Wendy Smith noted the new labs as key features of the building. 

The director of marketing and public information said they not only have all of the traditional features of a science lab, but they are considered a mobile classroom, meaning chairs, desks and tables are all movable. She said that this allows faculty and students to mold the classroom in accordance with the lecture or lab. 

“What was missing (from the old agriculture classrooms) was the flexibility,” Smith said. “We were limited in size before, but the theme that runs true for this whole building is flexibility.” 

Many of the classrooms also have movable dividers between them. Instructors can now use a larger classroom space if needed, or divide the room in half to hold two lectures at opposite sides of the room. Several classrooms also have what is called Daylight Board, which is considered one of the newest and most advanced smart boards on the market. 

The new commodities training classroom gives students a practical, hands-on look at commodities trading using simulated computer programs and a ticker tape surrounding the classroom that displays stocks, commodities and news in real time. 

Both agriculture business students, as well as regular business students, could utilize the classroom, Smith said. 

The agriculture program remains one of the fastest growing programs at Sheridan College. In 2010, approximately 60 students participated in the agriculture program. That grew to 91 by the end of the spring 2015 semester.  

“I think our students are really excited about this new classroom,” Smith said. “I know are staff is really excited about what this building has to offer.” 

The Mars Agriculture Center is an $8 million building. Half of those funds came from the Jacomien and Forrest E. Mars Jr. Foundation, the state contributed $2.7 million and Whitney Benefits put $1.3 million toward the project. 

The building is one of the several building projects the college has completed in recent years. The college finished the Whitney Center for the Arts in the fall and the Technical Education Center renovation project will be completed in 2017.