In Bedford County, Virginia, classes in agriculture for middle school students are being offered in some schools at the request of parents.
At Bedford Middle School, students were identifying the different types of trees in front of their school, as part of their introduction to agriculture class.
According to Director of secondary programs and career technical education Tony Francis, the district can now offer the agricultural program to middle school students thanks to additional money included in the budget for new programs. The middle schools where the agriculture class is offered are feeder schools for Staunton River High School and Liberty High School, which have agricultural programs.
“[The program] gives students the opportunity to be leaders and develop those skills to go out in industry and business,” Francis said. “That’s what we’re really excited about, because it’s a hands-on experience.”
Currently, 17 eighth graders at Bedford Middle School are enrolled in the class. They are learning now about planting and managing trees. They can measure a tree diameter with a tree scale stick to calculate approximately how many 15-foot logs can be harvested.
While the students may not be interested in forestry management, they are interested in studying agriculture when they get to high school. They want to learn about farming, repairing small engines, or welding.
The class offers a foundation in agriculture. Students learn about horticulture, natural resources, animal systems, food processing, and develop leadership skills.