Planting Early Seeds; Derry Area School District Hopes Seeds Sown at a Young Age Mature into Future Agriculture-Related Jobs. [Derived Headline]

By Carr, Dillon | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 6, 2017 | Go to article overview

Planting Early Seeds; Derry Area School District Hopes Seeds Sown at a Young Age Mature into Future Agriculture-Related Jobs. [Derived Headline]


Carr, Dillon, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Derry Area School District hopes seeds sown at a young age mature into future agriculture-related jobs.

"It's not just cows and plows," Westmoreland County Farm Bureau President Gretchen Winklosky said. "It's more than just owning a farm in agriculture. We are getting more and more removed from the farm. So we plant the seed early. We need engineers, researchers. If they don't know this exists, those positions won't get filled. We'll be eating synthetic foods if we're not careful."

The rural school district's Future Farmers of America program sprouted in the early 1990s and reaches nearly all grades, starting at kindergarten. Every year, the program's high school students plan and organize a four-day event, known as Derry Ag Days, when students in kindergarten through third grade are exposed to aspects of agriculture. This year's events ended Thursday.

Little eyes grew wide as four classes of first-graders filed into the enclosed area behind Grandview Elementary. Some had never seen farm animals such as the two goats, chickens, rabbits and a dairy calf that were displayed.

"If you ask (young students) where meat comes from, most would say it comes from the grocery store. They don't realize the chickens and cows and that, that's where their meat comes from," said Jana Reed, a grant-funded paraprofessional who works part-time at the school district's Ag/Hort Complex.

The county Farm Bureau became a sponsor of Ag Days in 2013. Three years ago, the school expanded its agricultural and horticultural programs with the adoption of the curriculum for agricultural science education, or CASE, which follows national standards and offers up to 10 classes.

Roy Campbell, the high school's agriculture and horticulture teacher, said there are about 45 students enrolled in CASE classes. Next year, which would mark the program's fourth, Campbell expects that number to increase to 65. CASE is the school district's latest move to further commit itself to exposing students to agriculture, Campbell said.

"We've had an agriculture program in our school for decades, dating back into the '60s," said Cheryl Walters, the district's superintendent. "It's reflective of the fact that we are rural and have a strong farming base."

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's most recent agriculture survey, Westmoreland County had a little more than 143,000 acres of farmland in 2012. The market value of the agricultural products sold reached $48.6 million that year. …

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