Agriculture is big business in Oregon, and is one of our state's largest export industries. Along with traditional products like wheat and livestock, Oregon produces a large variety of speciality crops from hazelnuts to tulips, from blueberries to Christmas trees.
Agriculture offers many career opportunities in Oregon, but because of budget cuts five years ago, the Career and Technical Education program in agriculture at McKay High School was dropped.
Reviving the Agriculture Program at McKay High School
McKay High School teacher Gerald Hosler (pictured above working with McKay students) was tasked with reviving the agriculture program during the 2014-15 school year. It's now one of seven CTE programs offered at McKay, and about 400 students are taking agriculture classes in the program this year.
Courses in agriculture students are offered are: Introduction to Agriculture, Introduction to Horticulture, Animal Science and Manufacturing Technology.
"The agricultural classes prepare students for college and careers by giving them applicable experience as to what to expect," Holser said. "For each course, one of the units we go through is learning about the various industries involved in agriculture where guest speakers will come in and discuss the reality of their profession."
Hands-on lessons are one of the reasons many high school students enjoy CTE courses, and Hosler's classes are no exception. But students do more than work in the greehouse or in the welding shop.
"All the courses include components of writing, mathematics and integration of science concepts from previous classes," he said. "This is done through things like learning to develop nutritional feed calculations, work in science labs, and through personal reflections."
Future Farmers of America at McKay High School
A pride point for Hosler is re-establishing a chapter of the Future Farmers of America at McKay High School. Called the Salem-Keizer FFA, Hosler invites guest speakers who are professionals in agricultural businesses to visit McKay and give talks to students.
"FFA allows students to participate in career development events such as veterinary science, landscaping and communications," he said. "There are 30 students actively involved in our FFA chapter. It is not a club, the FFA is an intracurricular leadership organization, that uses classroom learning to develop leadership and career skills."
"Students are able to gain the employability skills needed to be successful in any career choice they choose, whether that is a college bound degree, or going directly into a professional skills trade. The FFA also allows students to participate in Career Development Events which simulate various careers, such as Veterinary Science, Landscaping, or Agricultural Communications," he said.
Salem-Keizer CTE programs work in partnership with local businesses and community organizations. Hosler wants to recognize these groups for supporting the reintroduction of the agriculture program at McKay High School: The Salem-Keizer Education Foundation, NW Farm Credit Services, Kaiser Permanente, Starbucks, CareCrops, Willamette University Students, K&E Excavation, Atlas Bark, The Scott’s Company and Western Interlock.