Ridgewater College expanding its offering of meat cutting courses with help of federal grant

Ridgewater College plans to offer advanced meat processing and meat cutting entrepreneur certificates, adding to the beginning meat cutting certificate it began offering last year.

Ridgewater College's sign shows a welcome message on Sept. 3, 2020.
Kelly Boldan / West Central Tribune file photo

WILLMARRidgewater College plans to expand its new meat cutting program with the help of a federal grant.

Ridgewater, with campuses in Willmar and Hutchinson, launched its program last year with beginning meat cutting, a set of courses that led to an 18-credit certificate. The program was developed in response to a widespread shortage of butchers and meat cutters.

With a $625,000 U.S. Department of Education AgCentric grant, two more certificates will be added to the program, according to a news release from the college. Advanced meat processing and meat cutting entrepreneur courses will each lead to 18-credit certificates.

Ridgewater faculty, its Agriculture Department coordinator and the Minnesota State Northern Agriculture Center of Excellence, known as AgCentric, will actively reach out to students of color and underrepresented populations to participate in the programs.

The funding will support the program through August 2025 and pay for faculty and expert time to develop courses and offer lab experience. In addition, it will support the development of strategic marketing and facility leasing along with equipment purchase and installation.


A woman smiling
Sophia Thommes, meat-cutting instructor at Ridgewater, talks about the new program at Carlson Meat Shop in Grove City in October 2022. Thommes teaches a series of four-week courses about different aspects of the meat-cutting business. A total of 10 students have registered for courses in the first semester of the program.
Linda Vanderwerf / West Central Tribune

“This is very exciting for the program and the college as a whole to be offering meat cutting courses at the three levels,” Sophia Thommes, Ridgewater’s meat-cutting instructor, said in the release. “This grant will help this program hopefully have a sustainable future.”

Jeff Miller, Ridgewater dean of instruction, said, “The intent of the program is to keep students within their local communities.” He will oversee implementation of the grant.

The first class in beginning meat cutting graduated in December.

The advanced meat processing certificate will include five three-credit courses to be developed in the spring, to begin in spring 2024.

The meat cutting entrepreneur certificate will include courses in small business management and in developing or purchasing a business. Those courses will be developed during the 2023-24 academic year and being in 2024-25.

“The delivery of these academic programs is unlike anything we currently offer at Ridgewater College,” Miller said.

The programs are a hybrid instruction model, a combination of online and in-person lectures and hands-on experience.

Students who earn these certificates will have credentials in the Serv-Safe and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point Systems food safety credentials.


For more information about Ridgewater’s Meat Cutting program, go to .

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