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Marine veterans use Purdue’s Agronomy courses to enhance their knowledge, advance their business

Marcus Janssen and Ryan Roccio take a different approach to agriculture and to their agricultural business and it has a lot to do with their experience as U.S. Marines.

“My 20 years of service in the Marine Corps were about protecting and serving the greater good,” Janssen said. “I view my work in agronomy as an extension of that passion because our work is about protecting the earth and the farmers that make their living growing things. It’s crucial that we take action now to make food better, and as a Marine, I want to be the tip of the spear.”

The father and son team operate Crucible Ag, a specialty agriculture company with an emphasis on employing biotechnology and precision agriculture, especially in the fertilizer realm, to help enhance yields, profitability and sustainability. Crucible Ag’s goal is to lessen environmental impacts, and they do that by working with all sizes of farmers and agriculture companies spread across the nation and recently internationally in Bali, Indonesia.

“In the Marine Corps, you learn life skills that stick with you, and one of them is to always strive to be better at what you do,” said Roccio, who served as an infantryman in the 2nd Battalion 7th Marines.

That passion for the persistent pursuit of getting better at what they do has brought the pair to Purdue University's Agronomy e-Learning Academy, a series of 100% online courses in Agronomy Essentials, Nutrient Management and Precision Agriculture. Marcus completed the three-course certificate series and found it so valuable that he suggested it for Ryan as well.

“By taking these courses,” said Roccio, who's completed Agronomy Essentials and will take the other two courses in 2023, “I am trying to be the best that I can be at what I do.”

Janssen found the Purdue program in searching Google for online agronomy classes. He researched it and decided the curriculum was what he had in mind. Two other factors also came into play: the courses were from a major university with a highly ranked College of Agriculture, and they were designed for people like he and Roccio – working professionals.

“A big thing was the courses could work around our schedule,” Janssen said. “They were flexible. That was important because with our business we're on the road a lot. Our farmers have to come first.”

Purdue's Agronomy e-Learning Academy emphasizes the future but provides a solid grounding in present and past practices, which Janssen and Roccio are finding valuable.

“The way we do things, the fertilizers we work with, are really different,” Roccio said. “It's actually good to know how things are done traditionally because it allows me to work with my growers to adapt what we do to how they're used to operating. It really did give me some good insights.”

Roccio, whose master's degree is in international trade and economics, doesn't come from an agricultural background originally. Janssen, his roots in Nebraska farm country, does. But he finds the foundation laid by Purdue's online Agronomy program as valuable as Roccio.

“You've got to have that baseline, that understanding of what it takes to look at soil, look at fertilizers, look at applications, how precision agriculture works, how satellites work,” Janssen said. “Because all of that is important in everything we do to move forward.”

To learn more about Purdue's 100% online Agronomy e-Learning Academy visit the program's website.

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