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Farm provides ‘living laboratory’ at Medina school

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 October 2014 at 12:00 am

District uses $25K grant to build barn, pasture

Photos by Tom Rivers

MEDINA – If you drive down Mustang Drive to Medina High School, you may do a double-take. New this school year is a small barn and fenced-in pasture. There are llamas, sheep, a goat and a calf out munching on grass.

Students in boots are doing farm chores, hauling feed and water.

Welcome to the district’s agriculture program, which is taking students out of the classroom for more direct hands-on learning.

Justice Snook, a student in Medina’s introduction to agriculture course, pets a goat in the district’s new farm, which will enhance Medina’s agriculture program.

Monsanto approved a $25,000 grant for Medina to bolster its agriculture program. The grant paid for a small barn, a fence around the 1-acre pasture, security cameras, and a hydroponic system that will produce about 80 pounds of a feed a day.

“It’s fun to come out here and learn about it,” said Justice Snook, a freshman.

One class of students is pictured near the pasture and a new barn. The grain bins in back have been there for several decades.

In previous years, the 100 students in the agriculture classes were confined to the classroom, listening to PowerPoint presentations by teacher Todd Eick. Rather than showing the students pictures of different types of feed, the students can feel the different textures and feed the animals themselves.

This year students in Intro to Ag, Vet Science, Agriculture Engineering and Technology, and Environmental Applications will all have experience getting outside and working with the animals.

Todd Eick, FFA advisor and agriculture teacher, talks with students while inside the new barn. Chickens and rabbits are also planned for the building.

“We’ll have about 100 kids daily interacting with the animals,” said Todd Eick, the agriculture teacher and FFA advisor.

He stressed with students on Thursday the farm is highly visible to the community and will need to be kept clean, as a showcase for education.

“This is a living laboratory for us,” he said.

Chantelle Kidney, left, and Alexis Maines show the different pelletized feed for the animals. Students will learn how animals have different nutrition needs for protein, fiber, calcium and phosphorus.

The animals will be used for either their fiber – llamas and sheep – or for meat – goats, chickens and rabbits. The calf may join a dairy herd at another farm when it gets bigger.

Eick tends to the animals on the weekends and over the summer, with help from some FFA members. The FFA program has grown to 130 in the high school and another 95 in the junior FFA program.

The agriculture program also has apple trees in a partnership with local grower Jeff Smith. Eick also is working with the FFA to develop two community gardens on district property.

“Even if these kids don’t become farmers, one of my goals is for them to become more self-sufficient, to show them how much you can do on 1-acre,” Eick said.