Clark State Community College courses offered online might soon help vineyard owners and wine makers from across the U.S. produce a better product, reports Matt Sanctis on

Beginning this fall, Clark State will partner with the Viticulture and Enology Science and Technology Alliance National Center of Excellence to offer online courses in precision agriculture. VESTA is a national program funded by the National Science Foundation that offers certificates and the potential to earn two-year degrees for students interested in entering the wine industry.

Clark State will offer online courses including Introduction to GIS and Cartography, and Introduction to UAS and Remote Sensing. The courses will give VESTA students new electives to learn more about how precision agriculture can be used to improve vineyards, said Aimee Belanger-Haas, dean of business and applied technologies at Clark State.

It will also bring more exposure to the kinds of courses Clark State can offer, Belanger-Haas said.

“It gets our courses national and almost international exposure,” Belanger-Haas said. “It’s a bigger student base and it’s students who never thought about precision agriculture and what it can do in relation to growing grapes and making wine.”

VESTA is designed for students who want to either enter the wine industry or professionals in the field who want to improve their business, said Michelle Norgren, director of the VESTA National Center. It offers three paths, including viticulture, or grape growing. It also offers enology, or wine making, as well as a program to teach students to run a business in the wine industry.

VESTA offers more than 40 courses online, and the Clark State program will offer new electives for students, Norgren said. For Clark State, it will mean more students, including some who will likely be interested in seeking a two-year degree in precision agriculture at Clark State. About 1,500 students have passed through VESTA’s programs.

“They’re students from all over the U.S. and around the world, so it also brings a very diverse and expanded student base to Clark State Community College,” Norgren said.

Many VESTA students are already in the industry or are looking at the field as a second career. But there are also many younger students in Ohio who are interested in entering the field and earning a degree, Norgren said.

VESTA has about 400 active students now, Belanger-Haas said.