By Leeann Akers - Editor
April 3, 2013 —
The agriculture program at West Carter High School has grown in the last seven years and the Carter Board of Education agreed Saturday to allow the program to purchase a tractor which will help expand opportunities for students who participate.
What began as a one teacher program and a handful of classes in 1996 already has evolved into two full-time instructors and four main classes with 25 optional classes that are offered on a rotating basis.
With the new tractor, the program will have an opportunity to do even more hands-on learning.
“Mountain Enterprises has allowed us to use several acres of land in the Pleasant Valley area,” said Will Davis, one of the ag instructors. “The tractor will be used to cultivate 13 acres of land for strawberries, sugar cane, bell peppers, green beans, potatoes, pumpkins, sweet corn, tomatoes, green beans and watermelon.”
Currently, 645 students go through ag classes each year and 136 participate in Future Farmers of America.
FFA is an extracurricular club and many of the club officers and participants volunteer some summer vacation hours to help maintain the garden.
Students learn more than just how to have green thumbs in the ag program.
In addition to planting and harvesting, they also learn about building, grant writing and small engine work.
“It is really important that these kids understand there is more to farming than watering plants,” Davis said. “Farming is hard work but it is also very rewarding.”
Two West Carter students, Shelby Oakley and Amanda Steagall, compiled a business plan to present to the school board.
It contained a repayment plan, management analysis, marketing analysis and financial analysis.
Impressed by the plan, the board approved the financing of the $40,000 tractor.
If their enterprise is successful, Davis already has bigger plans for the future.
“Eventually we would like to turn 30 to 40 acres into livestock pasture,” Davis said. “We want to have animals for hands for experience in an animal science program. Hopefully the program will at least break even but the education experience is what we are focused on.”
Leeann Akers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 474-5101.