By Steve Moser

Here is a quiz you can pass with flying colors: What do the following have in common?

Dale M. Jonson (81) is an extension economist and farm management specialist at the University of Maryland and has conducted workshops in Moldova, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Poland.

Les Albertson (85) is manager of a 12,000-head cow and calf operation for the LDS Church in Utah, grazing the herd on acreage spanning 90 miles from one end to the other.

Rex Larsen (87) is general manager of the North Region Mill for Intermountain Farmers Association, supervising 23 full-time employees with $8 million-plus in yearly feed sales to ranchers in three states.

Karl Ritchie (89) is an agronomic consultant for Advanced Farming Systems, ensuring healthy crops by monitoring irrigation and the application of fertilizers for potato farmers in Idaho.

Ruby Ward (90) is an assistant professor of Economics in the College of Agriculture and Business at Utah State University, teaching classes and consulting with the nursery industry and turkey producers in Utah.

Answer: All five are graduates of the Ricks College Division of Agricultural and Biological Sciences and its departments.

“It was the defining point of my life,” says Johnson. He met John D. Walker, an instructor in the division, sometime during his freshman year. “(Agriculture) is where you need to go,” he recalls Walker telling him.

Albertson credits David Allen, a mathematics instructor, with providing the spark needed. “I found out that I could compete and I could succeed,” he says of Allen’s math course tailored to agriculture.

Larsen attended Utah State University but was dating Ricks College girls, he says. He enrolled at Ricks because “I wanted to pursue a career in the practical management production side of the beef production business.”

“Every teacher I had (at Ricks) wanted me to learn something out of the class,” says Ritchie, who obtained a Ph.D. in soil science from the University of Illinois. “And (at Ricks) they enjoyed teaching,” he adds.

“You really got to know your teachers,” says Ward, one of only a handful of women now teaching agricultural economics. “The level of the programs (at Ricks) are amazing. You get to know some of the basics so well, (that) you’re just worlds ahead when you start (at a university).”

What else do the five have in common?

They are all products of small Idaho towns, growing up on family farms near Shelley, Ashton, Preston, or Rexburg.

All realized that returning to the family farm was probably not an option.

All have only praise for the agriculture program at Ricks.

“The farm crops program led me into a career in ag education,” says Johnson, who graduated from Utah State University and has a Master’s degree in agricultural economics from Cornell.

“There isn’t a better place on the face of the earth to learn,” says Albertson, who graduated in beef production and returned as a married student with five children for his degree after an absence of ten years.

“The program was very hands-on and used practical applications,” says Larsen. “Those things have given me a definite edge to keep a tie to the family farm and be able to (practice learned skills) economically.”

“I was interested in going into agriculture,” says Ritchie, “and a program that mixed the practical with the academic. Ricks had exactly what I wanted.” He graduated in agronomy and obtained a Master’s degree in plant physiology from Utah State before earning his Doctorate.

“I knew (Ricks) was a good school, but I didn’t realize how good it was until I traveled and saw a lot of junior colleges all over the U.S.,” says Ward. She was a vice president of PAS (Post-Secondary Agricultural Students) at the time.

End of quiz.




For three days a team of 14 Ricks horticulture students participated in the 24th annual American Landscape Contractors Association (ALCA) Student Career Days at Mississippi State University. The team placed third out of 43 schools, the majority of which were four-year universities. The event is staged much like a horticulture Olympics with 25  events. “It is the best we have ever done,” says Byron John, chairman of the department of landscape and horticulture. “We have been told that this was the highest placement of any two-year school in the history of the competition. The (students) were highly sought after for employment by industry representatives,” John says.




When students and Ricks College employees need a break for contemplative meditation, exercise, or just a place to view nature and relax and unwind, they head for the Horticulture Demonstration Garden. This 10-acre garden on the south side of the Ricks campus was developed as an outdoor teaching facility in 1977 with the start of the Department of Landscape Horticulture. It is open to the public free of charge.

The entire garden is designed, constructed and maintained by the faculty, staff, and students in the department. Each summer the landscape construction class installs a new feature developed by the advanced landscape design class. Several other classes in the department, such as plant identification, landscape maintenance, landscape design, flower design, plant culture, and equipment operation, have outdoor lab activities in the garden. Fifteen to 20 students are employed part-time for various periods during the summer getting practical experience planting and caring for vegetables, flowers, lawns, trees, and various other features in the garden. Those features include three moving water locations, a picnic structure which can accommodate about 100 people, a reception area, vegetable test garden, cut flower and annual flower test garden, All American flower demonstration garden, small fruits garden, fruit tree orchard, extensive flower beds, a natural garden with native trees, shrubs and wild flowers and many benches and other structures.

Approximately 40 outdoor wedding receptions are held in the garden each summer. Campus clubs, LDS Church wards, clubs and organizations  use the facilities, as do many classes. Sunbirds, a name given to retirees who escape the heat of Arizona during the summer and live in Rexburg off-campus housing from May to August, were so appreciative of the gardens they raised funds for one of the three water features.

Over the years the Horticulture Demonstration Garden has emerged as a jewel in the crown of Ricks College, delighting students, staff, and surrounding communities.

(The article was written by Allen Wilson, a member of the landscape horticulture faculty, and a weekly columnist on gardening for the Idaho Falls Post Register.)




Biological Sciences 240 will be offered for the first time this fall at Ricks College. This introductory course to neurobiology will examine the elements of the nervous system, cellular communication, sensory, motor, and integrating systems, and will explore the plasticity of neural systems in learning, during development, and via hormonal influences.

“Neuroscience is now a standard discipline on many undergraduate campuses,” says Clair Eckersell, an instructor in the college’s biology department. “Our students should rightfully expect such a course available to them.” The class will be taught by a team of faculty from both the biology and psychology departments.

The field of Neuroscience is relatively young. The Society for Neuroscience was founded in 1970. Today its membership exceeds 25,000 and is the fastest-growing association of professional scientists in all of experimental biology.




Sophomore Teresa Dahl of Ruby Valley, Nev., an Animal Science major, served as President-elect in 1999 and is the new national president of Post-Secondary Agriculture Students. Pas is an organization of several thousand college and university students dedicated to “uniting education and industry in agriculture,” says Larry Stephens, an instructor in the Department of Agronomy/Ag Engineering/Ag Business.

Another Ricks student, freshman Beth Mill of Ferndale, Wash., is the president of IPAS, the five-state, intermountain region arm of the parent organization. She replaces David Kesler, a Ricks student majoring in Ag Machinery Management. Mill is an Animal Science major.

At the 2000 regional IPAS contest held in January, Ricks College qualified two teams to compete at nationals in the college bowl. Ricks took first place at the regionals in mechanics, prepared and impromptu speaking, dairy, livestock and horticulture contests.

At the PAS national convention Ricks students competed in many of the different contests offered and met industry leaders from throughout the agricultural business world.