God blessed me 23 years ago with two events that changed my life. First my daughter was born. Second, the company I worked for went out of business.
Both events continue to reap blessings on me. Now my daughter is a grown woman with a family of her own and I am so proud of who she is. Of course, I knew from the minute she was born that I had found a love I didn’t know existed until that moment. All parents know what I mean; that incredible feeling when you look at your baby for the first time and realize you will do anything for that little person.
The second event didn’t seem like a blessing at the time, but it’s amazing how the bad moments often turn out to be an opportunity for one door to close so that another one can open.
When the company I worked for closed shop, a co-worker and I decided to start a business. A month later, we started what is now the very company that publishes this newspaper. The company, Farmland Publications, began with an agriculture publication, The Farmer’s Pride.
For the past 23 years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet farmers and ag leaders across the state, to share their stories with our readers and learn about the issues that affect their livelihood.
I’ve also have the opportunity to work with youth involved in agriculture programs. I’ve visited numerous ag classes across Kentucky. I am the official photographer for the Kentucky FFA annual convention, which simply means I donate three days a year of my life to take photos of all the winners of their numerous state-level competitions.
It’s not unusual for me to cry at least once during that annual convention. Those students get onstage and tell their stories; tell how agriculture education and FFA have impacted their lives. I always come away impressed at their ability to communicate and their realistic grasp on the world that lies ahead. Mostly, though, I come away knowing that the future of this country is in good hands. These are our future business, political and family leaders…if you ever get worried about the state of our youth, just attend an FFA function. You will feel so much better.
Because of my personal experience, I am glad our assistant editor, Allison Cross-Hollon, covers our education beat and is reporting on the fact that an ag position at the high school is being considered for elimination. For the life of me, I can’t imagine there being two sides to this story. Yes, that makes me biased.
In defense of “the other side,” I completely commend our school district for re-evaluating any position that comes open. It’s their job to continuously evaluate the programs they offer and the current needs of our students. That should be done.
However, I can’t imagine it taking but a brief review to discover the importance of agriculture education. I could throw a lot of numbers at you about the fact that agriculture is an incredible part of our local economy. I could even name names of the local leadership that was impacted by ag education. I’m sure there will be plenty of statistics and personal stories available when the site based committee meets Monday.
What I want to say is this: nowhere else in our educational system do you see a program that is designed for everyone and anyone that covers such a wide spectrum of educational areas students need. I’ve been to ag programs when last year’s valedictorian and salutatorian were in the ag program. I’ve also listened as teachers talk about picking students who lack good home support systems to take part in competitions to help those students build self-confidence and character.
I can personally tell you that our ag teachers here in Adair County do those things. They don’t brag about it, they don’t do it for recognition, but they reach out to students who need a helping hand and give those students a support system that is otherwise missing. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen in other areas as well. We have some wonderful teachers who spend their own money and time, giving their heart to someone else’s child to give that student every possible opportunity to succeed.
The great thing about ag education, though, is that it helps every student reach his or her potential, regardless of where he or she may have started. Straight A students are welcome; so are the students who are struggling to earn a diploma.
I have not researched to find the number of students who graduate from Adair County High School who go on to achieve a college degree (notice, I said earned a degree, not who have gone on to college). I do know that agriculture prepares students for college as well as going into a trade after high school.
Ag classes teach real life experiences, and I will be bold and say there are not a lot of classes that offer that. Whether the student becomes a veterinarian, the next commissioner of agriculture, the guy (or girl) who builds a successful business mowing lawns, or opens a greenhouse business, he or she will learn invaluable tools in the agriculture program. Maybe their future won’t even be ag-related; they still learn life lessons that help them along the way.
The opening of an ag teacher position in Adair County High School is an opportunity to re-evaluate our curriculum, but not about whether the position should be eliminated. Instead, it’s a great time to review our ag program and see how it can be even better than ever. We have the foundation to have one of the finest ag programs in Kentucky and beyond. Now is not the time to go backward; it’s the time to move forward and provide a strong, vital program that helps those students prepare for the real world that lies ahead.
Adair County Community Voice
The Farmer’s Pride