2017-07-16 / Front Page

Chesaning Union Schools invest in agriculture

By Jeanne Marcello
Staff Reporter

CHESANING – During the July 10 meeting, the Chesaning Union Schools Board of Education set up an agricultural barn sinking fund and approved allocating $45,000 from the school district’s sinking fund revenue for the construction of a new Chesaning High School agriculture barn.

Agriculture/science teacher Liz Tomac told the Citizen, “We’re looking to update our existing facilities so we can expand our program offerings. We’d like to be able to bring in livestock on a regular basis and offer increased opportunities in animal agriculture.”

“We have a five-year goal that includes a new barn facility and a new greenhouse. We anticipate a majority of the funding coming from a grassroots effort. We’ve got people donating time, materials, and financial support. We have a group that will be soliciting donations from people to help us fund this new facility. We’re going to build in stages. We know to build it all at once is just too much. Going to start with a shell of a building and add each year from there. There’s been a lot of support. It’s very exciting for our school and our students,” Tomac said.

She said, “We really want the agriculture program in Chesaning to be a showcase program and potentially draw school of choice students, as well as increase opportunities for all students. That’s really our primary goal, to increase opportunities for our students. Drawing other students would be an added bonus.”

Tomac is realigning the agricultural science program at Chesaning in a way that sets up a progression of classes that give students a good foundation of science knowledge before elaborating in more targeted study of plant science and animal science.

Under the new program, ninth grade students will need to take agricultural biology A and B to receive biology credit.

Students in 10th grade will take advanced studies in agriculture and natural resources A and B before they can take the upper level electives.

Earlier this year, Tomac said, “Advanced studies in agriculture and natural resources will provide students with the opportunity to explore topics in domestic animal production, animal genetics and reproduction, soils and plant nutrition, plant culture and propagation, and agricultural business and marketing.”

In the first trimester, students raise and process meat chickens. In the second trimester, they focus on plant production utilizing the green house. Tomac said, “This course must be completed prior to student’s enrollment in the upper level agri science courses.”

The upper level agri science courses are only open to 11th and 12th grade students who complete both courses in agricultural biology and advance studies in agriculture and natural resources. Some of the upper level courses might be offered every other year, Tomac said.

Upper level courses include food science, floral design, small animal care and management, agricultural issues and communications, agriculture finance and leadership, veterinary science, botany, an agricultural internship and environmental science.

Tomac said, “Students who are completers of the agri science program and earn their FFA state degree as a senior, as well as have been active FFA members throughout high school, can be granted six free credits to Michigan State University (MSU).

Tomac explained that the proposed program realignment would result in an increase in state funding. “We need a complete agri science program. The statewide AG student graduation rate is 96.6 percent,” Tomac told the board in February.

Vincke said, “Liz has done a great job with this. We want kids to take classes based on career pathways, or at least career interest. There are a lot of jobs in agriculture.”

Chesaning Township Supervisor Bob Corrin said, “Whoever decided to improve the AG facilities and hire that teacher, I hope you continue to give her support. [The agriculture program is] a valuable asset to this community.”

School board trustee Charles Rolfe said, “I sat in a meeting where I was impressed by [Tomac’s] presentation. I was blown away. She intends to make this a world-class program.”

School board president Martin Maier said, “She is forward thinking. It’s a great program.”

Earlier this year Superintendent Mike McGough informed the school board that someone had donated some greenhouse equipment to the school. Rolfe said, “We’re very grateful to the donors.”

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