Army veteran pursues new goals through Agriculture Technology program | ECTC

Army veteran pursues new goals through Agriculture Technology program

Published on Dec 13, 2021

ECTC student and Army veteran Ryan Gilbey’s interest in an Agriculture degree is driven by the desire to sustainably feed 40 people.

Gilbey started classes last spring and is holistically trying to find the best ways to grow and produce food to feed people.

“When you produce your own food, you know what you’re eating, and you know what is eaten by what you’re eating,” said Gilbey. “I want to make sure that whatever animals I have are having the best life, which is not only humane but produces more and better-quality animal products. People want to know what they’re putting in their body.”

On a tour in the middle east during his military career, Gilbey said, one memory in particular sticks out to him as having an impact on his current agricultural goals.

“We were moving from one place to the next and on the side of the highway there was a huge field like a landfill and there were these huts made of propane tanks, but there were animals in there,” said Gilbey. “I don’t know what they were eating but all I could think about was what those animals were ingesting, and then people are then eating those animals. Unconsciously, I think an experience like that has certainly colored how I think of humane treatment of raising the animals you eat.”

What he is learning in class goes far beyond the facts for exams and that his instructor and Agriculture Technology Program Coordinator Ben Smith is part of what makes this education so valuable, Gilbey said.

“Ben has been a great instructor, especially with the project on animal shelter structures in my ag power class. He’s worked with me through the challenges and has really helped me figure out some solutions,” said Gilbey. “The instructors here don’t shut me down if I've gotten something wrong or if I'm struggling. They allow me to ask questions, give constructive feedback and help me work through any challenges I run into.”

Small class sizes and relevant curriculum add an even greater value to his education, he said.

“One of the major reasons I chose this school is because I can put hands-on to what I’m learning and I’m going to be able to fix my own equipment and build what my animals need, because I’m learning it in the classroom and lab,” said Gilbey. “I also have educators who have experience in what they’re teaching. During the height of the pandemic, I was taking agriculture economics and I was watching it unfold around me with shortages and shipping challenges.”

In addition to his agricultural interests, Gilbey is involved on campus as the president of the Student Veterans Organization (SVO) with hopes to grow the group.

“You don’t have to be a military member or veteran to join the SVO, which exists to support veterans and their families,” said Gilbey. “We have so many resources on campus including tutoring and textbook help, so it’s really nice to see how the college is taking care of our military community.”

Those interested in becoming part of the SVO can visit

Gilbey says his experiences in life and at ECTC have taught him to reach out for help and find resources.

“If anyone is thinking about going to college or getting back in the classroom, my advice is to reach out and seek the help you need,” said Gilbey. “There are tons of people on this campus who care and want to see students succeed. Whether its tutoring, time management skills or something else, there is someone ready and willing to help.”