Couple makes donation to Highland College agricultural program in son’s honor

Stateline Strong

FREEPORT, Ill. (WTVO) — Almost two years after the passing of their son, a retired farming couple has decided to make a contribution in his name to a local agricultural program.

Joel Switzer passed away unexpectedly in 2017, killed in a construction related accident near his home in Fairbanks, Alaska.

His parents, Stephen and Doreen, made a donation to what will become a new greenhouse to Highland Community College’s agricultural program.

Currently, a simple brown sign with gold lettering marks the spot where the greenhouse will be constructed.

The 21 by 26-foot greenhouse will allow for more hands-on research and labs.

“In AG business, in research, in seed and soil science, in chemicals and fertilizers and all of those things, so there’s a lot of careers that support the producers in our area,” Ag Instructor Monica Pierce said.

The Switzers, who live in Orangeville, have been farmers all their lives.

“We grew up in the 40’s and 50’s, when farms were about 120 acres, [with] 20 milk cows, hundred hogs, some chickens, a big garden and a small orchard,” Steve Switzer said. “For hard working, dedicated, ambitious farmers all over northern Illinois, it was an interesting, challenging, and rewarding way of life.”

The couple retired in 2002, but wanted to make a gesture that represented their love for farm life, their son, and Stephenson County.

“We have people like Steve, who are passionate about the agricultural industry, who believe in it,” said Pierce. “It makes sense for our community to be coming together to help grow this program.”

As he spoke to a crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony, Switzer says he hopes the contribution will make a lasting impression in the community.

“We hope, in some small way, it does something for what Max Armstrong calls ‘agriculture, America’s most essential industry,'” he said.

Doreen Switzer passed away just a few weeks before the groundbreaking ceremony.

Work on the new greenhouse is expected to be completed in the fall. Students will be able to use it for the spring semester.

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