Farm equipment takes a beating during harvests, and skilled mechanics are needed to keep these large vehicles in working order. Now, thanks to the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, students in Palm Beach State College’s heavy equipment mechanics program on the Belle Glade campus have an actual harvester and tractor to train on — something no other program in the area offers.
The donation of the Cameco brand equipment is valued at $51,000. “We cannot thank the cooperative enough for this generous donation,” said Dr. Holly Bennett, campus provost. “Our students will have the advantage over any other new hires by having mastery of those skills before they graduate.”
Though the school had other equipment, the program did not have anything like its new equipment.
“We had pieces of vehicles, motors and all kinds of things like that, but we didn’t have actual vehicles that our students could work on,” said Dr. Gloria McAllister, campus director of corporate/career education and postsecondary adult vocational programs. “Now our students will have experience with a track harvester, as well as with a wheel tractor. That’s unique to our program.”
Harvesters are used to cut the sugar cane in the field and take so much abuse that they must be torn down, serviced and rebuilt each harvest season, including the tracks and cutting mechanisms. Tractors are used in all types of agriculture in the Glades.
“Having the harvester and tractor as part of our heavy equipment mechanics program will allow us to do an even better job of providing a quality workforce to the region,” McAllister said.
The Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida consists of 45 grower-members who bring sugar from cane fields in South Florida to dinner tables, restaurants and food manufacturing facilities throughout the U.S. and worldwide.
“We are pleased to be business partners with PBSC,” said Barbara Miedema, vice president of the cooperative. “The college is an integral part of the Glades community that provides continuing educational and skilled training opportunities for local residents. By donating real-life farm equipment, we can ‘grow-our-own’ workforce.”
Carl “Trey” Dean, campus groundskeeper and a student in the heavy equipment mechanics program, wasted no time getting a close look at the harvester and tractor. “It’s great to have real pieces of equipment that are used in the fields,” he said. “Most programs can only show you the equipment. We can actually work on it here.”
ABOVE: PBSC’s new Cameco harvester, donated by the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida.