CLARE – When Clare-Gladwin Career & Technical Education launched its Agricultural Science program last fall, hopes were high but expectations were realistic. By any measure, the first year has been a success; the second year promises to be even better.
“As students came into this program last fall, it started out as kind of a blank canvas,” said Instructor Tony Wood. “Throughout this school year, we’ve made a tremendous amount of progress in developing the facilities for the program and the programming itself.”
Ag Science students – juniors and seniors from Beaverton, Gladwin, Clare and Farwell – jumped right in as school started at the Magnus Center. They began by renovating a barn on the property that had been used for storage, converting it into a series of pens. That was followed by their first studies of animal life on the farm.
“Early in the year, when we were working with broiler chickens,” Wood said, “students were really learning the basics of animal production. That project followed right through to the statewide competition with the FFA.”
Students in Ag Science were on a dual track throughout the year, not only learning the ins and outs of the industry, but also preparing the environment for future students in the years to come.
“From the broiler chickens, we evolved to livestock, and the students had significant hands-on involvement in developing the facilities – clearing the space in the barn, building the pens,” Wood said. “Now we have two ewes, one of which lambed in February, so the students were able to experience new life on the farm. We have a feeder Holstein steer that came into the facility this winter at about 600 pounds, and students have fed and taken care of the steer, who’s now about 900 pounds. Most recently we added four Holstein dairy calves that the students have been bottle-feeding, and will soon transition into grain and hay.”
Throughout the course of the year, students in the class found that it’s quite different from a traditional high school classroom.
“I expected it to be a lot more like being in a class,” said Gladwin Junior Heidi Inscho. “But we actually do most of everything outside because of the animals that we have. When we first get here, we’re out in the barn doing chores and we don’t go into the class until everythings fed and the barns clean.”
“I just love working with the animals everyday,” said Alaina Cuddie, another junior from GHS. “I just have horses at home, so I like working with the other livestock here. We studied things like intestinal tracks, and different breeding studies that were really cool, and that’s all going to help me going into Vet school.”
“A lot of the kids in our class had never done anything with animals, and I think it teaches kids a lot about responsibility, and it’s a lot more fun because Mr. Wood teaches you about why you do things when you do it, ” Inscho said.
Among other significant program advancements this year:
nCTE Ag Science and the Clare-Gladwin Regional Education Service District secured a grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development worth nearly $100,000 to support infrastructure and sustainability of land-based industries. The grant money will be used to purchase a four-wheel drive tractor, as well as a no-till drill for incorporation into the students’ pasture and crop production. Grant funds will also contribute to the acquisition of drone technology with mapping software, a skid loader and work on the program’s greenhouse.
nAg Science hosted Project R.E.D. (Rural Education Day), co-sponsored by Farm Bureau, MSU Extension and FFA, on May 14. Local fifth-graders convened at the Magnus Center and met with representatives from local agricultural industries.
For his part, Wood is anxious to see where the program can go from here. “As we move forward,” Wood said, “we’re looking for this program to be inclusive to all students who have an interest in agriculture.”
“I’ve learned a lot of things about the industry,” Beaverton Senior James Frye said. “When I came in, I was just working on a farm, baling hay, and that’s pretty much all I knew. Now I know all the background behind it and got a lot of hands-on experience, which helped a lot. We started off with just this green barn and now look at it – we’ve got all these animals, all this fencing, all this hands-on experience. This is going to be a great program for future farmers.”