From the Field: Perseverance

From the Field is a bi-monthly column written by Mark Campbell, Farm Bureau Field Services Director for the Central District. He writes about Farm Bureau member benefits and County Farm Bureau activities.

Perseverance is defined as “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.”  Farm Bureau is thankful to have numerous volunteers and county Farm Bureaus that have the quality of perseverance. 

Perseverance in many cases is a key factor in farming and ranching.  Despite challenges, farmers and ranchers keep plowing forward with a hopeful heart and confidence in doing the right thing.  One example of perseverance that I want to share with you is from Fluvanna County. 
Fluvanna is a county just southeast of Charlottesville and has not had a vocational-agriculture class in the school system since the year 2000.  Residents say the class was mostly mechanical and wood trades with very little agriculture.  A FFA chapter hasn’t been present in decades.  While Fluvanna was lacking an agriculture program and FFA, counties adjacent to it, such as Louisa and Nelson, had extremely strong agriculture and FFA programs. Many of the residents wanted to see an agriculture class in Fluvanna schools again.
Fluvanna County Farm Bureau (FCFB) knew that things had to change, and it would be up to them to make it happen.  There had been a growing 4-H program, especially in the equine area.   
Discussions on how to implement an agriculture curriculum started in 2007.  In 2008, serious planning started.  Dr. Glenn Anderson, Agriculture Education Specialist for the Virginia Department of Education, met with the board of directors and informed them of the various agriculture curriculum tracks that were available and key people in the school system to meet. 
FCFB took every opportunity to lobby the school board and board of supervisors members for an agriculture program.  FCFB leveraged their lobbying efforts by having a $1,000 scholarship available to any high school student who planned to pursue a college degree in a college of agriculture.  Furthermore, FCFB assisted with funding a small hydroponics project that was actually part of a math business class. 
FCFB partnered with the extension agent and 4-H agent to further the cause.  The partnership hosted an “Agriculture Open House” at the middle school.  This open house had a rotation of classes that visited numerous stations that described what types of careers and opportunities fell under the broad title, agriculture.  The survey (conducted by school administration) response afterwards from the students revealed strong support for an agriculture class to be offered.
 FCFB had Virginia State FFA officers at one of their annual meetings to make the case for an agriculture class and FFA.  If you have heard a state FFA officer speak, you know what polished speakers they are.  FCFB made it a point to invite the key school staff, school board, and board of supervisors to hear the message.
This effort was not without challenges.  The message that FCFB was making seemed to often fall on deaf ears for the first few years.  Several reasons provided as to why an agriculture program was not realistic ranged from there being no interest to lack of funding.  There were times when it was appropriate to step back for a while, and take a break from it. 
FCFB persevered for six years and finally achieved success this year when a horticulture teacher was hired.  The class is available to grades 8-12 and current enrollment is 106 students.  A new large greenhouse is being constructed this fall. 
FCFB obviously plans to continue its support of this class now that it has been established.  Hopefully a FFA chapter will follow.
We can all feel overwhelmed at times with all that we have to do.  But I think the best strategy is to break it down in segments.  Little successes over time will lead to accomplishing that goal that seemed daunting at the start.
Until next time,

Mark

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