Education

'This is not your grandfather's agriculture'

Philipsburg-Osceola High School will launch a hydroponics class that will include a look at the science behind some cutting edge agriculture.
Philipsburg-Osceola High School will launch a hydroponics class that will include a look at the science behind some cutting edge agriculture. Centre Daily Times, file

Ask a kid at Philipsburg-Osceola what they want to do after high school, and you might hear a lot of answers about jobs, colleges and the military.

But a few dozen are looking for a career that's grounded in, well, the ground.

The school district is supporting that with the development of a new agriculture program.

P-O already offers students different paths to a future after graduation. Superintendent Gregg Paladina said the new program will let them look at an area of interest that could lead them to working on a farm, but could take them to further career and technical education or to a college program like Penn State.

The first step in the program is a class that will start in the fall. Paladina said about 40 kids have signed up for a hydroponics class that will include a look at the science behind some cutting edge agriculture.

"This isn't your grandfather's agriculture class," he said. "We have to go beyond that."

The idea has a fan in Washington. U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, is enthusiastic about both agriculture and CTE, and sees high school programs as a blending of the two.

"They are charging in the right direction," Thompson said. "I'm very pleased with the announcement."

P-O is the latest Centre County school to jump on the farming bandwagon. Bald Eagle Area has a thriving program that hosted a statewide showcase in February that was attended by Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding.

But Thompson says it's not just a new trend.

"It's hard to say they are starting for the first time. All the high schools, they all had (an agriculture program) at one time that we lost, probably decades ago," he said. "But I love the vision of how important this is to our area."

For Paladina, the importance is helping kids pick a direction and preparing them for goals.

"This is about actual jobs," he said.

Thompson agreed. On Wednesday, co-sponsored legislation that would modernize the FFA (formerly the Future Farmers of America), recognizing its importance as an arm of CTE.

"It speaks well for our communities, and for vibrant economies in the future, to equip these kids with everything the an agriculture curriculum can provide," Thompson said.

Agriculture is Pennsylvania's largest industry, and encompasses more than traditional farming, including forestry and food production. One in four Pennsylvania jobs are tied to agriculture.

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