“Agriculture generates some 22 million jobs in the United States, and most are located off of farms. Actually, fewer than 2 million Americans are actively engaged in farming. Today’s farmers are efficient enough to produce 16% of the world’s food supply. However, the task of keeping all these people fed is complicated by environmental, scientific, economical, political, and legal questions.”
Thus begins the Agriculturecareers.com website. 22 million jobs employ around 10 percent of the American population over the age of 18. Seems like an excellent reason to fully support an Agriculture and Horticulture Program at our new high school. A song is beautiful to listen to and creative arts develop creativity and tolerance in our students, both excellent reasons to support Art, Chorus, and Band in our schools. Sports have a way of bringing a community together to support our athletes, and develop our athletes to become team players while forging their own paths. Agriculture and Horticulture do all of these things also while fulfilling a necessity. The human being must eat, and in today’s world it is not as easy as it once was to fulfill this need. Science and technology are used more and more all of the time in the industry to meet the needs of a growing population. Throughout this process of bringing the Agriculture and Horticulture departments to the new school, I have been amazed at some of the comments I have heard:
- “Pet project” – well yes! It is one of my pet projects to see that Clarke County children are prepared to enter our ever changing world with excellent skills that meet today’s needs. It is one of my pet projects to support what my grandparents and great grandparent-in-laws have supported for over 70 years in this community. Over 70 years of tax revenue from one family in our community, along with all of the other long term agricultural families, here should be respected. Not to mention our other long term donations to the community.
- “IB/AP programs are more important” – How many children in a four year period graduate with an IB degree? Agriculture and Horticulture are important to over 340 students in the four grades at Clarke County High School. Everyone should try to remember that all technology classes should be respected; Where would we be if there were no electricians, carpenters, plumbers, engineers, etc? In pretty bad shape, that’s where we would be. Any and all honest career education choices should be respected and given equal recognition in our community. As my mother said, “Book sense can be bought, common sense can not.”
- “Wastewater problems” make this project difficult – It Would not be the first difficult area of our new school, deal with it like you have the rest of the problems. Our school board is made up of a group consisting of five very intelligent women who have contracted excellent engineers to bring this school about. I am sure between the two groups, wastewater can be handled.
- “Bus the students over to the old high school” – That sounds easy, except you would have to do it several times a day, dedicate a bus and bus driver to it every day and every year, deal with the logistics of unexpected events, bring teachers and students back in forth between the two schools for administrative issues, and last but not least segregate children from their peers because of their interest in Agriculture and Horticulture. Maybe it is not as easy as it sounds, maybe it would be better to spend the money now to place this program in our new school where it belongs rather than spend money year after year while treating a select group of students like second rate citizens.
I must say, I am amazed the citizens of Clarke County even have to fight this fight. I truly believe that none of this was done on purpose to make Agriculture and Horticulture look like a second rate program, but it really is how this situation makes it look.
Last fall the Virginia Extension brought together a group of people from our region to address some of the problems in our Agricultural communities. The number one problem discussed was how to bring together those moving into agricultural communities from urban areas with those of us who practice agriculture. One of the best things I brought home from that meeting was the feeling of respect tendered towards our new community members and our genuine effort towards this problem. Well, it is pretty sad to find that this is not always a two way street. And, really sad to find out that elected officials who were chosen to represent our best interests are not able to due to misinformation, misguidance, and very muddy waters.
My husband and I presently have a 15 year old at the high school, and have put three others through over the years. One of my biggest points of admiration for our school system has been the diversity of education needs it has been able to meet. Each of our four children has excelled in a different area of our high school’s programs. We have had an AP/Art student, an Ag/Tech student, a Chorus/Journalism student, and now an Athlete/Ag/Honors student. Two have gone on to college and all are productive members of their community. Clarke County Public Schools enabled us to raise these children to find their niche in life.
I am respectfully asking each school board member to find the right information needed to reach this decision in a logical manner as you have done many times in the past. I am asking our supervisors to assist the school board in any way that is needed to support Clarke County’s legacy of agriculture and educating our children fully and well. Support a greenhouse and agricultural program at our new high school for the over 340 students that are interested in it, for our community, for our country, and for our world!
President, Clarke County 4-H Leaders Association Member, Clarke County Extension Leadership Council Parent, Children and Grandchildren in Clarke County