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School AG Classes Making a Comeback

2300 Views 8 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  Jim in NC
This is good news. The area in which I live has become increasingly urbanized over the last 30 years, and school systems during this time have dropped most of their Ag programs in most all of the area high schools. They are beginning to rethink that now largely due to the fact that Agruculture is NC's largest and most stable business and industry. NC still has some large, predominately rural areas, and the powers in control still believe that they need to grow and develop those areas to improve their economic status. I argue that Ag can do that very thing as the urban areas grow. Maybe some folks are coming around. I am not ready to hold my breath though!

By: TRAVIS FAIN | Winston-Salem Journal
Published: March 15, 2012
Updated: March 16, 2012 - 12:20 AM

Seeds of new interest in school ag programs begin to sprout

High school agriculture programs have lost a little of their popularity as Forsyth County farms have given way to suburban homes.

But the programs that remain have experienced a mini-Renaissance lately. Reagan High School's program added a second teacher last year, said Bruce Sherman, co-director of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system's career education programs, including the agriculture program.

North Forsyth High School's horticulture classes have grown from small classes to large ones, said Ed Gregory, the teacher who runs the program there. At Carter High School, which serves disabled children, the program offers hands-on lessons in a wheelchair-accessible greenhouse.

But countywide, it's a challenge keeping the numbers up, Sherman said. Reynolds High School's program closed years ago due to lack of interest. Even with a focus on the science and business sides of farming, it's difficult to overcome students' assumptions.

"The thought of 'just farming' scares a lot of kids," Gregory said.

Farming is mostly the domain of major corporations these days. It's a $74 billion slice of North Carolina's economy, according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Tractors are computerized. Crops can be genetically modified. And even if Winston-Salem isn't exactly surrounded by farms offering job opportunities, the region has plenty of plant nurseries and vineyards that do, and a growing organic movement has meant more small local farms popping up, Gregory said.

You can earn a good living working the land, and there's a freedom that comes with that, Gregory said. So he teaches the patience and the process it takes to nurse seeds into seedlings, and seedlings into full-grown plants. He coaches students through the repetition of rooting and transplanting in a greenhouse behind the school.

He calls his introductory classes "intro to life" – "because you learn about where your food comes from, your clothes come from," he said.

That lesson comes through clearly after transplanting a few hundred young plants.

"It's not as easy as it looks," said Calvin White, a North Forsyth senior and veteran of Gregory's classes. "For all the food you see in the store, there's somebody busting their butt."

Nationwide, interest in agriculture education may be on the upswing, said Joshua Bledsoe, North Carolina's agricultural education leader and the state's adviser for the Future Farmers of America group. More commonly called FFA, the group is at a 30-year membership high with 560,000 members in the United States and more than 18,600 in North Carolina, Bledsoe said.

Overall population growth helps, but not just because there are more potential members. There are more people who need food, and thus more interest in the science of the food chain, Bledsoe said. There's also more interest in biofuels, clean water and clean air – anything that can contribute to a more sustainable future.

"The heart of that's agriculture," said Bledsoe.
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Sounds good Jim. It reminds me of a story my bride told me when she learned that I came from a farming family.

She spent a semester in an inner city college in Ohio. During an economics class the subject of farming subsidies came up.
One student remarked, "I don't see any reason why the government should spend my tax money on farmers."
The instructor made it simple for them. He asked, "How many of you know how to plant, grow, and harvest your own potatoes?"
She said less than half a dozen people in the class of around thirty raised their hands. "That's why we subsidize farmers." he replied.
Very positive article, and hopefully it becomes more than a trend in years to come, for the sake of not only the student's but for our nation's well being.
Great article Jim. Don't think they really ever had any ag classes avail. around here.
Kinda like the people who always complain about trucks yet can't comprehend that everything in their homes got there by truck.
Right on Ron. The trucks, tractors, agriculture all run on petrol products. The doogooders are outsmarting themselves when you get right down to it. They wanna have their steaks, cakes, and stuff and make others suffer payin for it.
Thats GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Hayleyd signed up for a full year course on Agriculture for her freshman year. Our high school AG teacher is a real go getter. He has built a very good ag department for the kids in the last 5 years :D
Glad yall have that at Hayleyd's school. Most of the kids in these parts ain't got a clue as to where food really comes from.
Lucily FFA is still really big here. One grandson has been in it since 6th grade which is when it starts and offered through HS.

There are either one or two high schools in this county with the 3rd largest school system in the state that have AG programs in the school.
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