Agricultural education makes comeback in Warren County

The Warren Sentinel

FRONT ROYAL — After a 44-year absence, Future Farmers of America (FFA) has returned to Warren County High School and will soon be at Skyline High School.

The FFA is a youth leadership organization that prepares students for premier leadership, personal growth and career success.

The club’s absence could perhaps be due to a lack of student interest and that people did not think there was a need for it, club sponsor Grace Huddleston said. That has changed, and there are now about 25 active members.

Schools Superintendent Greg Drescher put out a community survey last year, and several questions asked what citizens would like to see happen with career and technical education. One of the largest requests was to offer agriculture classes and bring back the FFA.

Applied Agriculture Sciences was offered this semester at Warren County High School with Huddleston as the teacher, and the FFA’s formation followed. The course will be offered at Skyline High School next semester, along with the FFA.

Topics covered in Applied Agricultural Concepts encompass landscaping, horticulture, animal science, animal processing, forestry and other areas, Huddleston said.

The school system is building its agriculture offerings as time passes, and next year Introduction to Animal Systems will be offered at the high schools, according to Blue Ridge Technical Center Director Jane Baker. Three agriculture courses will also be offered at both middle schools.

“We’re thrilled, and they are an excellent foundation for any student, whether they want to go into a career that’s associated with agriculture or not,” Baker said.

It takes a while to get the ball rolling for a club such as the FFA, Huddleston said. So far, the members have helped install a tower garden at the high school, participated in a cookie dough fundraiser, spoken at a school board meeting and they eat lunch together once a month.

This week, the club will travel to Clear Brook Park for chapter bonding time. A lot more is planned for the spring, such as participation in several livestock judging activities.  

Agriculture is important because it is weaved throughout our daily lives, from the moment we wake up, Huddleston said.

“Our sheets are made out of cotton...there are agricultural commodities in your toothpaste, in the desks that we sit at every day. It is everywhere,” Huddleston said.

Being an educated consumer is important, Huddleston said. It is important to know where food comes from. By 2050, there will be 9 billion people on Earth, and they will have to be fed and clothed on the same amount of land currently used, or less.

Students are not as aware as previous generations of agricultural issues, and Huddleston said it is part of her job to make them aware.

“FFA has plenty of programs that make them aware, as well as let them help out and try to fix the problem,” Huddleston said.

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