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farming taught at LPHS

Monday, October 02, 2017 14:11 PM
Written by Stan Maddux
Category: Local News

Students at LaPorte High School are being taught just how skilled farmers have to be to feed the world.

Not only are they learning how to raise and harvest crops and fix mechanical breakdowns but also the science and mathematics involved in food reaching dinner tables.

For Aubrey Gierke, one of the major benefits has been coming out of her shell from the leadership skills and confidence acquired since enrolling as a freshman.

Gierke, now a junior, was just recently elected president of the Future Farmers of America chapter at her school.

"I was extremely shy," said Gierke, who exercised the option all students in the course have of joining the FFA's local chapter.

Among her FFA assignments were speaking to local service organizations and as she began growing the door opened for her to become an entry level officer with the local chapter prior to her being elected president.

"From there on out I just matured as an adult," said Gierke.

Currently, more than 100 students are in the agriculture course now in its third year and roughly half are members of the local FFA chapter, said Rob Walker, the course instructor.

Sweet corn, pumpkins and other crops like soybeans have been planted and harvested each year with help from students in the class on a five-acre parcel beside the Educational Services Center at 1921 A St. said Walker.

Students are also taught to perform electrical work and other skills like welding farmers often rely upon themselves to hold the line on expenses.

Eventually, LPHS principal Ben Tonagel said how to fix tractors and other heavy farm machinery will be added to the curriculum and hopes to add a second ag teacher soon.

"That's how popular the courses are," said Tonagel.

Walker said not every student wants to make their living on a farm but enroll for the experience of hands-on learning then leave with skills they can use in other occupations and do-it-yourself projects at home.

Landscaping is also taught in the course

"We have a lot of students who just want to learn by doing and that's our motto. Learning to do and doing to learn," said Walker.

One of the more recent assignments involved students calculating how many seeds were inside pumpkins based on their weight and size.

They cut open each pumpkin to see how accurate they were and given some of the seeds to sample.

Becca Tuholski, whose family raises corn and soybeans on 6,000 acres, helps with the instruction as an educator with the Purdue Extension office in LaPorte.

She said awareness of where food comes from along with the work and economics involved in getting food to the consumer are other important aspects of the course.

"Bringing agriculture and food into the school and into the curriculum is really neat and I think it's important," said Tuholski, a 2009 LaPorte High School graduate.