KAY THOMAS/For the County News
Participants in the recent Agri-business Academy tour organized by the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership and Genesee Community College.
Teachers head down to the farm for new agribusiness academy
GVEP and GCC work together in farmSixty-five educators participated in a two-day workshop to study agribusiness in the three-county region.
The impetus for their trip down on the farm was to learn about the science, business and technology involved with successful agricultural industries and to develop relevant curriculums for a proposed agribusiness Academy through the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership in collaboration with Genesee Community College. The College Tech Prep programs are open to motivated high school seniors who want to earn college credit in their field of study.
Dr. Sheila Eigenbrod, middle/high school principal at Pavilion Central School, spearheaded the initiative to develop an awareness and education of the leading industry in Livingston, Genesee and Wyoming Counties.
The goal is to develop a successful agribusiness academy that would begin in the 2013-2014 school year.
The academy would be patterned after the already successful health, legal and information technology academies currently available to high school seniors attending districts within the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership.
“In order to understand agriculture, you have to see it,” Eigenbrod said. “Afterward, many of the participants said this was the best staff development opportunity they’d had in years.”
The participants broke up into three groups, each one taking a day-long bus tour of farm and agricultural industries in Livingston, Genesee and Wyoming counties.
The tours included stops at dairy and crop farms, a Livingston County grain elevator, a worm farm, a feed producer, a farm equipment dealer, a farm producer of organic energy. Representatives from the banking industry also contributed regarding agricultural financing.
The GVEP career and tech program offers programs in conservation and animal science but not agriculture and agribusiness specifically, Eigenbrod explained.
“These opportunities need to grow by putting agribusiness at the forefront,” she said. “There has been a disconnect between education and agriculture but partnerships are being formed and the end goal is the academy.”
The hope is that educators will also gain a better understanding of the significance of agriculture and the numerous career opportunities associated with it and be able to incorporate that understanding into the classroom curriculums. The second day of the workshop was centered around curriculum development.
“The goal of the tour was to bring to light the number of opportunities there are for our students in the field of agribusiness. It is the hope of the initiative to educate teachers so they can bring valuable information back to the classroom and share with our students not only the importance of agriculture but wide variety of job opportunities available to the students in the future,” commented York Middle/High School Principal David Sylvester.
More often, schools in the region are graduating seniors who are furthering their education in the field of agriculture and agribusiness. Here is what a few of them have to say about their choice and the possibility of a agribusiness academy at GVEP.
Cal-Mum 2012 graduate Collin Callan has grown up working on his family farm. Like his older brother Ryan, a 2010 CM grad, the young men knew they wanted to stay in farming as a career.
“My father told us that if we didn’t go to college, he didn’t want us back on the farm. He told us we need an education to survive in farming today,” Collin said.
He studied metal trades at the Batavia career and tech campus of the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership. He knows he can put those skills to work on the farm.
But there is so much more he wants to learn when begins college at SUNY Morrisville next month to study dairy science. Agriculture is a science today, infused with advanced technology, he explained. Callan Farms uses GPS technology in their field work and computer driven software in the milking parlor.
“Everything has changed on the farm from when my dad grew up. We keep track of the cow’s feed on a laptop,” Collin remarked.
He says an agribusiness academy at the GVEP would be very beneficial to those students looking to make their career in agriculture. Educators and industries are realizing the significance of agribusiness to the local economy and the country as a whole, and are responding accordingly.
Collin was the recipient of four scholarships at graduation, all exclusive to a graduating senior pursuing a college degree in an agricultural related field of study.
Farming is not just for males or for those who grew up on a farm. Melanie Hickey, a 2012 Cal-Mum grad is also studying Dairy Science at SUNY Morrisville this fall.
She didn’t grow up on a farm at all but says a friend introduced her to dairy farming and she fell in love with the idea of raising and milking cows. She’s worked on four different farms in the past couple of years and says she was one of only a few female farm workers.
Hickey wants to be a herdsman when she graduates college, which means she will have to learn how to care for the health, safety and milk production of the cows.
She studied animal science at the GVEP but says she would definitely have taken the agribusiness academy if it had been in place when she was high school.
She thinks the program is a good idea because not only will it help those students who know are pursuing a college degree in agriculture earn some college credits, it will also encourage those students who think they don’t need a college education to be in farming, to the fact that there is much to learn to be successful in agriculture.
Valerie Lathron graduated from Avon in 2009 and went to Alfred State College where she earned an associate’s degree in ag business.
She completed her bachelor’s degree at SUNY Cobbleskill and is now doing an internship with Nationwide Agri-Business, insurance providers. She was with 4-H representatives that had a booth at GCC on day two of the workshop.
Information about some of the latest agricultural technology appealed to the educators as they passed by. Many said they had no idea of the sophisticated practices in today’s agriculture, Lathron said.
She thinks the proposed agribusiness academy would be an improvement in the educational opportunities for students within the GVEP who are pursuing agricultural degrees in college.
She believes the animal science program is not specifically targeted to agriculture and it doesn’t offer college credit like the academies do, which is of interest to many college bound high school students.
After graduation, Lathron says she will return to work on her family farm in Avon but also plans to pursue a career in agri-business.