LEONARDTOWN, Md.—The St. Mary's County Farm Bureau has proposed to the St. Mary's County Board of Education that an Agricultural Science and Technology Education program be instituted at a county high school or at the Forrest Career and Technology Center. The requested program will utilize the Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (CASE) sequence of courses developed in accordance with the Maryland State Department of Education Career and Technology Education, Agricultural Science Education program. It is Farm Bureau's vision that the Ag Education program will be a four-year course containing honors level classes in plant science, animal science, agriculture biotechnology, and other similar courses, and that the existing Future Farmers of America chapter at the Forrest Center will be aligned with the new program. Farm Bureau has determined that this issue requires immediate attention because it is critical to our county's economic diversification, workforce development, and the preservation of farm and forestland. Farm Bureau has identified a pool of approximately 145 students in the eight county 4-H clubs as potential candidates for the program.
On November 19, 2013, Farm Bureau facilitated a presentation by Dr. Joshua E. Rice regarding his Ag Education program at Southern High School in Harwood, Maryland to Dr. Michael J. Martirano, school board members, state elected officials, and other community leaders. Dr. Rice explained the CASE Ag Education curriculum, his honors courses, and the science and technology components of his program. Four student members of Dr. Rice's nationally award winning equestrian judging team shared their experiences with the attendees. They related their educational experiences in the classroom, discussed their Supervised Agricultural Experiences projects, their participation in the Future Farmers of America chapter, and their plans for college. The students' career focus is in veterinary science, animal science and production, teaching, and related areas.
Mr. David Miller, a director with the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation, or MAFE, said that nearly 23 million people work in agriculture and related fields, but only about two percent are farmers. It is estimated there are 52,000 annual job openings in agriculture for new graduates in a variety of areas. Mr. Miller shared that MAFE is ready to work with the St. Mary's school system with advice on funding the program. Ms. Sue Kullen, a field representative for Senator Ben Cardin, pledged the support of Senator Cardin's office for any federal grant requests. Senator Roy P. Dyson and Delegate John F. Wood, Jr., also endorsed the proposal. Dr. Christine Bergmark, Executive Director of the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission, indicated that the Ag Education program may be eligible for support by SMADC.
School Board members Mary M. Washington, Cathy Allen, Marilyn A. Crosby, and Board Chair Dr. Salvatore L. Raspa all indicated their support for the proposal. Dr. Raspa shared fond recollections of his own experiences on the farm, as did other board members. Several St. Mary's students also endorsed the proposal. Ms. Gabrielle Cory, who is Miss Maryland Agriculture, and Mr. Charlie Sasscer of the Rope-N-Wranglers 4-H club, addressed the attendees and asked for support for the Ag Education program.
Dr. Martirano informed the 35 attendees that the school system has been considering creating an Ag Education program since 2010, when the FFA chapter was chartered at the Forrest Center. He announced that he will direct staff to develop a business plan for the proposal, with input from the various stakeholders, and will include the request in the upcoming school board budget submission to the St. Mary's County Board of County Commissioners.
Farm Bureau President, Jamie Raley said that Farm Bureau is very excited about this project and the farming community is look forward to working with the Board of Education and other stakeholders in bringing the proposal to fruition.
Source: St. Mary's County Farm Bureau