The Ottumwa Courier

Southeast Iowa

March 12, 2014

School's ag program fate unresolved


Ewell said this isn’t a one-year problem but a trend. “I came from a large family farm, I know the value of teaching agriculture, especially here in Iowa. I was interested in something Craig Hill of the Iowa Farm Bureau said. He said that what we’re seeing is that people are staying in farming long-term, longer than in other careers. What I want to know is how is that affecting the youth as they are considering starting a possible career in agriculture?”

Banks said that the current ag instructor, Jennifer Gardner, “is doing a nice job and she is doing a great job trying to sell the program to the students. She has posters, she drums up support. A lot of eighth-graders are interested and would take them if we could make it work with their schedule. If you ask the kids, the reason they don’t take the classes is that they go up against the mandatory courses. I think dual enrollment would help.”

There was a time period that Van Buren didn’t have an agriculture program, some of the administrators said. Bob Steingreaber, board member, said, “I think it was in the early to mid 1980s, maybe 1982 or 1983. Historically, I know Clay Lanman was the ag teacher in the 1960s.” Sheila Parsons said Clay’s tenure even stretched into the 1950s. Parent Dennis Lydolph said there were still agriculture business classes taught in the 1970s.

“If nothing can be done in our own district to improve our program, then sharing with another district needs to be looked at. We need to explore all possibilities, not just one district, as has happened this time.”

Banks said students sign up for classes by the last week in April, but the administration would be able to be flexible in whatever the board decides.

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