Monsanto Gives $10,000 Grant to UMass Agricultural Learning Center

UMass Amherst has received a $10,000 grant from the Monsanto Fund, the philanthropic branch of the Monsanto Company. Monsanto is an agricultural biotechnology corporation. The grant will go to UMass’ new Agricultural Learning Center.

The Agricultural Learning Center will be established on the north side of the Amherst campus, which University officials say will be a living classroom for two hundred students, and open to the public.

John Purcell is vice president of technology development at Monsanto, and a UMass Amherst graduate. He says the Agricultural Learning Center is a good fit for the Monsanto Fund. He says the fund’s goal is to give back to communities where Monsanto operates.

“As we looked at what the intentions were, what the goals were of this program, it was very consistent about agriculture, about education, and those are things that we value, and things we try to support in communities where we work and where we live.”

Purcell says his studies in biochemistry and entomology at UMass were the foundation for his career in agriculture. He says his work at Monsanto centers on developing new technologies to increase agricultural production.

“When you look at agriculture over the last several decades, there’s been a lot of emphasis now on how do we continue to learn how plants grow, and how do we take advantage of modern technologies like genomics, like understanding modern breeding techniques, to understand how do we actually bring into that plant the power to be successful and to yield more?”

Monsanto’s grant to the Agricultural Learning Center is unrestricted. As of July, the university had raised $500,000 for the center. It hopes to raise a total of $5 million to make the center fully operational by 2014.