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Roseburg High Teacher Striving to Bring Agriculture Science Into the Mainstream

5:59 PM · Feb 11, 2023

Last week, a group of young future foresters, gardeners, and lawyers spread out in the greenhouse at Roseburg High School, all working together over pots of flowers. It’s all part of Cailey Powell’s Agricultural Sciences 2 class where they prepared 200 hanging baskets for the annual plant sale hosted by the Ag program. Makaela Carter has been in the ag program since her freshman year and has exhausted all of her options in the program as a senior. But it’s so important to her, that she is doing an independent study and sits in on Cailey’s Ag 2 class. She studies the business of agriculture and the impacts the legal system has on the industry. “I take ag because agriculture is the staple of the world,” Carter said. “It’s why we are here today. I really enjoy getting to do these hands-on experiences with plants and animal science. Agriculture doesn’t just mean farmers. It’s so many other businesses and industries that people aren’t even aware of. Everything in the world can somehow relate back to agriculture because agriculture helped it get there. We would not be where we are in the world without agriculture.” She has her next steps planned out with the intent to practice agricultural law. She participates in debate-type competitions and firmly believes in the importance of understanding where food comes from and how it impacts the rest of society. “Agriculture is an often overlooked topic, yet it surrounds each and every one of us each day: food, fiber, and natural resources,” Powell said. “The Agriculture industry is just as important, if not more, than it has been historically. Our global population has surpassed 8 billion people, yet we are producing products on less and less land. The Agriculture industry is responsible for caring for the human populace and it provides numerous job opportunities; most jobs have a connection to the agriculture industry.” Powell is in her second year as the Agriculture teacher and FFA Advisor at RHS, but she went through the program herself, was a part of FFA, raised animals for the county fair, and grew up on a ranch. She lives and breaths agricultural sciences. Despite circulating through three teachers in her four years, she loved the program and continued to invest in it, unaware she would become the teacher for the program later. Hunter Ponton and Ysabella Mills-Price are paired off transplanting plugs into hanging pots together. The senior and junior respectively both want to be foresters when they join the workforce. Ponton checks in with Mills-Price to know if he’s pulling out the plugs correctly. “I just grew to love it more and more,” Ponton said. “Powell is a really cool teacher. You don't need to grow up with a rural background to be part of the FFA.” Ponton wasn’t going to take Ag classes when he got to high school. Classes and clubs were over Zoom still. Through conversations with friends, he was convinced that he would like an Ag class. Ysabella knew she wanted to do Ag to add to her gardening skills and prepare her for a forestry-related job. “I would rather be outside doing something,” Mills-Price said. “I like hiking and I like being outside. I decided I’ll take ag and use that to get into forestry and go from there. Agriculture is not just about animals. There is a lot of plant stuff. It’s not just for ‘hillbillies,’ there’s more to it. It’s good even if you want a garden of your own.” Seed germination, gardening, research, business planning, capital investment management, flexibility, project management, and motor skills are all things students learn in Ag 2. Powell is invested in growing the program even more. Powell took this class when she went to RHS and really loves working with her students and teaching the value of the agriculture industry. “Providing Agriculture Science classes in school provides students the opportunity to learn more about agriculture, find deeper value in their connection to agriculture, and develop amazing skills along the way such as premier leadership, professional growth, and career success,” Powell said. “Agriculture classes are not specific to rural-raised individuals; Agriculture Education is available for each and every student that has an interest or passion in agriculture production: animals, plants, soils, forestry, natural resources, etc. It's not as simple as teaching them where their food comes from, but developing a deeper understanding of the industry that provides for us each and every day.” In Oregon, all students enrolled in an Agriculture class are registered as members of the National FFA Organization, previously known as Future Farmers of America. Powell is clear on the difference between active FFA members and Ag students but is also intent on motivating all of them to be engaged in their learning and to be respectful of each other and the earth that provides for them. “I truly enjoyed taking agricultural science classes because of their emphasis on plant and animal sciences and the hands-on nature of most activities,” Powell said. “Having a deep pride in this program has made me a better educator and gives me the motivation to stay here as long as I can to help create a sustainable program. Since I am an alumnus of the Agriculture Science program and the Roseburg FFA Chapter, I know the potential it has, and I hope to be the cornerstone in its forward progress and growth. Over the years, I have begun to make the program my own and develop a deeper relationship with my students and colleagues. Since being a teacher, I have begun to expand the Agriculture Science, heavily promote it to the community, and recruit and retain larger numbers of students within the Roseburg FFA Chapter.” All of Powell’s Ag 2 students are kind, quick to listen, and hard workers. In about 30 minutes, they diligently dug holes and gently transferred four plugs into each of the hanging baskets. They started with 800 plugs and finished more than half by the time the class period was ending. The National FFA Organization is the largest Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) in the United States, with over 850,000 members and 8,995 Chapters. The FFA is also often seen as only for "farm kids" but Powell says every student has a home in the FFA and they can develop endless skills, memories, and friendships in the classes and organization. “One of the largest misconceptions about the Agriculture Science Program is that it is exclusive to students that have a background in ag or grew up on a farm or ranch,” Powell said. “This has been a large stigma of the program for many years. I am continuing to work and help break those misconceptions and ensure that everyone knows that the agriculture science program is for each and every student. One does not have to come from a farm or ranch, or own animals or gardens, in order to be involved in their agriculture science program. The program is open to anyone that wants to learn more about agricultural sciences such as animals, plants, soils, forestry, natural resources, etc. As I always say, agriculture is "not just about cows and plows.’” Powell said the plant sale normally happens around Mother's Day and the following weekend if there is still stock. This will also be the first year in a while they will be selling vegetable starts. If you have any questions about the Agriculture Science Program or want to learn about how to get your student involved, please reach out to the Agriculture Science Instructor, Cailey Powell at cpowell@roseburg.k12.or.us.

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