Bergstrom: Foundation helps AHS ag programPublished 6:20am Friday, January 18, 2013
By Brad Bergstrom
Agriculture has been a part of the fabric of Austin for more than 150 years. It has been at the backbone of helping make the community of Austin what it is today, and agriculture still continues to play a vital role in our economy. Since 2008, the field of agriculture is one of the few industries that continues to show strong growth despite a deep recession, and the future continues to look bright. Unfortunately, the ag program at Austin High School over the last 10 years has not showed the same kind of growth and in fact, had shrunk to just two courses being offered over the last five years. To grow the program and continue the strong traditions of agriculture, AHS needed to hire a full-time teacher. Thanks to the support and generosity of The Hormel Foundation, this happened in fall 2012.
This year at Austin High School, we have offered two brand-new ag courses that include an emphasis in agriculture, farming and natural resources, as well as a course in animals. Both of these courses use a new curriculum called CASE (Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education). Developed and used around the country, it is designed to help students understand the key concepts of the agriculture industry in the 21st century and is designed for students who may or may not already have family in the ag industry.
The additional courses have had an immediate impact on the number of students who are taking ag courses at Austin High School. We have gone from around 45 students in 2011-2012 to more than 100 students this year. In addition to more students taking classes, we have also had an increase in the number of students who are involved in the Future Farmers of America group. Led by Linnay Yarger, ag teacher at AHS, the group has more than doubled in size and they are always looking for more students to join.
We are very fortunate to have a community that supports the agricultural industry as well as a partner like The Hormel Foundation that provides the financial support needed to regrow the AHS ag program. The future is indeed bright, and we have created another wonderful pathway for a career choice for the students attending AHS.