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Rural Colleges Aren’t Supplying the Workers Rural Businesses and Agriculture Need

FAYETTEVILLE, Tenn. — Farris Beasley stands in a barn on his 600-acre farm, pointing out equipment both ancient and modern and longing for the days when all of it was as easy to repair as his 1939 John Deere tractor.

Like Beasley, a retired large-animal veterinarian, farmers nationwide are hard-pressed these days to find mechanics trained to maintain their 21st-century equipment or workers who understand the complexities of modern farming or how to tend to cows or horses.

Here in Fayetteville, a rural community 80 miles south of Nashville and 33 miles north of Huntsville, Alabama, agriculture is by far the largest industry, generating at least $110 million a year in surrounding Lincoln County. Until recently, though, the only college in town had no agriculture classes — and nobody can explain why.

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