Farm-City Committee tours Goshen Ag Academy
Published 4:00 am Wednesday, November 11, 2015
The Pike County Farm-City Committee of the Pike County Chamber of Commerce continued its Farm-City Week activities Wednesday with a visit to the Agriscience and Technical Academy at Goshen High School Tuesday.
Randy Hale, Farm-City Committee chair, said each year the Farm-City Committee tours a farm or ag-related business or industry in an effort to learn more about the relationship between the rural and urban communities in Pike County.
“The expressed purpose for visiting the Ag Academy was to gain information about the academy and what benefits the students receive from an academy where the studies are directed toward their areas of interest,” Hale said.
Jamie Rich, Academy instructor, said there is a new mindset for learning at the Ag Academy.
A student who graduates from the Ag Academy’s three-year program will also have earned a two-year associate degree from Enterprise State Community College and Wallace State Community College – Hanceville.
“The Ag Academy students receive a three-year general education with a concentration in an agriculture program that focuses on modern business and economic principles involved in the organization, operation and management of agricultural enterprises,” said Jamie Rich, Ag Academy instructor. “Students apply for the Ag Academy in the ninth grade and actually enter the academy in the tenth grade. At that time, they begin to adjust to the college atmosphere.”
Classroom studies are coupled with hands-on experiences as the students work in the academy’s greenhouses, equipment repair and maintenance shop and the chicken coop.
The areas of study include special topics in horticulture, introduction to animal dairy science, vegetable and orchard crops, agricultural equipment repair and maintenance and residential landscape design.
The 20 Ag Academy students took the group of committee members and community leaders on a tour of the academy that included the academy building, shop, greenhouses and chicken coop.
Dr. Mark Bazzell, superintendent of Pike County Schools, said the Ag Academy’s new direction is another step in the continuing growth of the academy concept in education.
“About 20 years ago, a group of educators from the Pike County city and county school systems and community leaders went to Florida to learn about academies and how they worked. We liked what we saw and realized how academies could benefit our students.”
Bazzell said the Pike County Board of Education is committed to the new mindset of learning at the Ag Academy.
“With Mrs. Rich and Cody Eisland, we have the right folks to make it work,” he said. “We have made a sizeable financial investment in the Ag Academy. We have committed 21-acres and a building and we are doing it right. Our Ag Academy is unique in the state and the possibilities for our students are unlimited.”
Bazzell said plans are to offer a post-graduate program, in cooperation with Auburn University, to Ag Academy graduates that would include three semesters and one summer of study at the Goshen academy.
“When the post-graduate studies are completed, the students will have earned a bachelor’s degree in Ag Education without it costing them a dime,” Bazzell said.
Those who earn associate degrees at the county’s academies are held to a high standard.
“We don’t cut the academy students any slack,” Bazzell said “They have got to perform or they are out.
“The goal of the each of the academies is to provide the students with valuable skill sets that prepare them for college or for a career. The cost-savings to the families of students who graduate from the academies is substantial and the educational value is priceless.”
Kathy Sauer, Chamber president, said the Farm-City Tour of the Goshen Agriscience and Technical Academy was an opportunity for committee members, farmers and community leaders to learn about the changes at the academy and to experience, first-hand, the opportunities offered through the academy and how the students will benefit from those opportunities in college or in the workplace.