New Agriculture Program

New Agriculture Program
New Agriculture Program Kokomo Area Career Center students recently harvested more than 50 pounds of vegetables, including zucchini, squash, and peppers, from their farm at Elwood Haynes STEM Elementary School.
Unused green space at Elwood Haynes was converted into a lab for the Kokomo Area Career Center’s new agriculture program. The land, once home to a middle school football field and track, now houses more than 50 apple trees and many different types of vegetables… all planted between the old goalposts that still stand.
“The students are learning sustainable farming and sustainable living,” noted teacher Paul Mikesell, who grew up on a farm in Miami County. “The students will learn basic practices involved in farming commercially, as well as residentially.”
The program has grown from five students in its first year to 17 students this school year. Mr. Mikesell hopes the course inspires some of the students to continue in the agriculture industry, which currently is a high-demand field. Students can find a job in any sector of the industry because of an aging workforce, the teacher added.
New Agriculture Program
Senior Clayton Noland is in his second year of the KACC agriculture program.
“I signed up for the class originally because I thought it would be fun,” Clayton explained. “I love it more than I thought I would, and now I want to own my own land someday.”
Clayton learned some hard truths about farming during the summer when unpredictable weather – too much rain early in the summer, followed by excessive heat and too little rain later – affected yields on the KACC farm. 
“It was depressing to lose some of our crops,” Clayton noted.
Senior Jayleah St. Clair’s grandparents operate a large garden on several acres in Russiaville. Jayleah entered the agriculture class with a strong foundation of knowledge from helping her grandparents, but she still learned something new.
“I learned about garden design from this class,” Jayleah explained. “I have a better understanding about placement of plants, which is helpful because I want to garden my own land eventually.”
KACC Director Jonathan Schuck said a goal of the program is to sell some of the crops through a “farm-to-table” model.
“We hope to see the fruits and vegetables produced by the KACC agriculture program being used by many of the area schools, as well as our KACC culinary program,” Director Schuck noted. “This result equals fresh fruits and vegetables from our agriculture program going to school kitchens, which hopefully will help lower the cost of produce for many of these schools.”
Elwood Haynes Principal Laurie Bridge said her elementary students already have had the opportunity to taste some of the vegetables produced on the farm. On a recent afternoon, several Elwood Haynes 3rd-graders helped the agriculture students plant strawberries. 
Mrs. Bridge envisions even more involvement throughout this school year, since the curriculum and goals of the agriculture program align with Elwood Haynes’s goals as a STEM school.
“We are excited to give our students experiences with planting and growing vegetables,” Mrs. Bridge added. “These are experiences the students might not otherwise have.”
Mr. Schuck noted that the agriculture program can benefit students in their careers as well as their everyday life.
“Kokomo Area Career Center agriculture students will gain the knowledge and skills that will benefit them in the agriculture industry,” Mr. Schuck concluded. “This agriculture program also meets a potential life application goal… helping young adults learn how to grow fruits and vegetables for their families and their neighborhoods in the future.”
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