The continuing education department at Three Rivers College is ready to start its second session of tractor operation and guidance classes in New Madrid on Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

According to TRC Project Director Michael Barrett, the course will teach students how to drive the new CASE IH Magnum 240 that TRC has on a farm in New Madrid. The college has 46 acres available to them in New Madrid, and Barrett said that is where the last two classes will be held. "This is the same class that we offered in November," he said. "Like the last class, it is offered tuition free, and the classes will cover three Saturdays."

The first class will be held at the New Madrid High School just off of Interstate 55, and then the classes for the last two Saturdays will move to the farm a couple of miles away in order to work with the tractor. "This class is not for college credit," said Barrett. "It is only for continuing education, but each student will receive a certificate of completion that will verify that they do understand the controls and can operate the new CASE IH Magnum 240 tractor." Barrett added that the student will be able to take the certificate with them to show that they are capable of operating this type of tractor when applying for a job with a local farmer. "The farmer will know that the student has 24 contact hours on the tractor and know what they are doing," said Barrett. "It should make them more employable than just someone who has no experience."

For individuals who are interested in taking the class, they can go to the TRC website at and under academics, go to continuing education. Prospective students need to complete the highlighted form, and from there, they need to choose the appropriate continuing education class. "Tractor Operator Guidance is the class they need to choose," said Barrett. "Then all they have to do is show up for the class on Saturday." Barrett said that he is hoping as more take the class, people will learn that these classes are available and will take advantage of them. "The whole idea behind this program is to spark the interest in our precision ag program that will begin this spring semester," he said. "We will be teaching two courses this semester, one being introduction to precision agriculture and the other in computer application in agriculture." Both classes are 3 credit hours each.

Barrett intends on both courses being taught as ITV classes and streamed into the Kennett campus. He said the class is currently being taught in Sikeston; however, the more students who sign up for the courses in Kennett, the more likely he will be able to offer them through ITV.

The precision agriculture program begins Jan. 19, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Barrett said that individuals can register for the new courses, as well as the welding program, at Caruthersville. TRC Career Mentor Whitney Patterson will be at the Caruthersville location to work with students in order to keep them on track, as well as talking to people in the industry to match students with the best employment possibilities available.

According to Barrett, farming has changed a lot over the years, and technology has greatly increased efficiency in farming practices. For instance, the use of geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS), and a range of sensors, monitors, and controllers are transforming agricultural equipment making it more precise.

These new technologies and resources have opened a whole new door in which more educated and readily capable individuals are needed to operate them, as well as demonstrate them to the farmer. For the progressive farmer and farm manager, it allows them to accurately direct equipment movements, provide precise positioning for actions and chemical applications, as well as analyze data from a variety of sources.

Barrett said that the precision ag program at TRC is also creating a new job market in the future of agriculture. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, jobs in precision ag are expected to grow 10 to 19 percent over the next four years, and with it, an average salary for someone working in the field may be more than $40,000 per year.

For more information on the tractor operation and guidance classes or any other continuing education class offered by TRC, visit To register for this course, contact Amber Spears at 573-840-9619 or email her at