Learning the science of agriculture.
By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.
VICTORY TOWNSHIP (Mason County) — Agriculture is one of the top industries in Michigan. The food and agriculture industry contributes $101.2 billion annual to the state’s economy, according to the Michigan Farm Bureau. There are over 923,000 agriculture food processing and agriculture related jobs in Michigan, 22 percent of the state’s workforce. It is also an important industry in this area, which is likely why the West Shore Educational Service District’s Agriscience class is one of the most popular courses for high schoolers enrolled in the Career Technical Education program.
“We do quite a bit of different classroom activities,” said instructor Jorhie Beadle. “The students are assigned a supervised agricultural experience, which is a year long project that each individually manages.” Students are placed with local industries, businesses, or conduct research projects in classrooms. Beadle said some students choose to start their own small business as a project, which teaches entrepreneurial skills, something needed in farming.
Students meet on the campus of West Shore Community College, which also offers an advanced program for college students in partnership with Michigan State University.
Students study a variety of topics including horticulture, hydroponics, crop production and raising animals.
The class is offered to students who attend public high schools within the West Shore ESD, which includes Ludington, Mason County Central, Hart, Shelby, Mason County Eastern, Baldwin, Gateway to Success Academy, Pentwater, and Walkerville. It is also offered to students from Manistee County schools as well.
Beadle said there are 32 first year students in the program, 12 in the morning class and 20 in the afternoon. Additionally, there are four students who are in a second year program.
Ethan Wilkinson and Khole Hofmann are juniors at Pentwater High School and first year students of the agriscience class. They chose to raise rabbits as their year-long project. They said their project includes testing different types of foods on the rabbits to see how they will respond.
“My grandpa owns a farm and I’ve always been interested in it,” Hofmann said.
Wilkinson said farming has also been something he has been interested in as well.
Emily Gardner, a junior at Manistee High School, said she has an interest in veterinary medicine and agribusiness. “It’s everything I could have asked for in an agriscience class,” she said. “Everything we do is so hands on. I also enjoy working with my peers and meeting new friends.” Gardner said she is going to soon be placed on a project working at Larsen Farms east of the college.
Joe Lugo, a senior at Onekama High School, is in his second year of the program. He plans on becoming an agronomist, a person who studies the soil. He said he finds experimenting on soils to be rewarding.
Rebekah Snell, a senior at Ludington High School, took the class because she had enjoyed a previous agriscience class she took when she lived in California. She said she has a concern over sustainability and the need to explore other ways to farm, such as hydroponics.
“This class is really focused on the science of the earth,” she said. “Right now we are talking about soil, the biology of it, the texture, moisture. It’s just really important right now that we sustain the top soil we have.”
Beadle said students in the agriscience class can also participate in the FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America), a youth leadership program that centers around agriculture. Through the West Shore chapter of the FFA students have the opportunity to travel to state and national events.
The CTE program is supported by a millage paid for by the taxpayers of Mason, Lake, and Oceana counties. Each high school within those counties can send a select number of students to participate in the career training programs. Manistee County schools participating in the program pay tuition.
West Shore School News is a service of Media Group 31, LLC, which also owns Mason County Press, Oceana County Press and Manistee County Press.
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