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ARGENTA – Amanda Spinner studied agriculture in college before she knew she wanted to teach.

So when she went back to school to get the classes to allow her to be a teacher, she ended up with an agriculture education endorsement on her license. Thanks to an ADM Cares grant of $10,000, Argenta-Oreana High School is adding agriculture education to its curriculum.

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Spinner is in her second year with the district and said she was surprised when she discovered there was no agriculture program at the school. With a number of families involved in agriculture in the school and community, it would seem to make sense that ag classes are available, but they haven't been for many years.

“We didn't have a teacher with an ag certification (before),” said high school Principal Sean German. “Once I went through and did a review of the areas our teachers are certified in, and I knew it had been something we wanted for some time, but we hadn't had the opportunity.”

ADM Cares invited area superintendents to a meeting to talk about the various grants they offer to schools, and many of the grants are focused on agriculture. With that knowledge and with having Spinner on staff, the timing was perfect, German said.

Some of the grant money will benefit the science department generally, as equipment used in ag classes, such as badly-needed new microscopes and textbooks will be shared by students who are not studying agriculture.

This year, Spinner is offering an introduction to ag class, but next year, the choices will include several other classes, too.

“This year, we're doing introduction to agriculture,” Spinner said. “We won't start FFA until next year and I will introduce more agriculture classes next year.”

Those classes will include an agricultural biology class that will satisfy the students' required biology credit, with classes in chemistry, horticulture and veterinary science in the works as well. Spinner said she hopes to eventually have a greenhouse on campus, but until funding allows for such a big project, she's been looking into hydroponics and other options that would allow horticulture projects on a smaller scale in the classroom.

“Right now, they're learning what agriculture is and what FFA is and we're going to start going through keeping record books, like how you keep livestock and soil science, animal science, just trying to give them an overview of the overall spectrum,” Spinner said. “I'm trying to get some ag business in there, trying to show them how broad of a category ag is. It's not just farmers.”

The possible career paths in agriculture cover such a wide range that almost any of the students might discover a talent that could become an ag career, Spinner said, and her hope is that between the classes and the experiences available to FFA members, students will realize they have options they hadn't even considered.

Contact Valerie Wells at (217) 421-7982. Follow her on Twitter: @modgirlreporter

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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Herald & Review.

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