Agriculture projects give PCHS students work experience

Published 3:13 pm Monday, April 20, 2009

Polk County High students in the agriculture program are completing supervised agriculture experience (SAE) projects, a minimum of 20 hours spent on a project outside of the classroom that provides them with practical work experience in an agriculture related field.

SAEs can take the form of starting a small business, job shadowing, building a physical project and generally exploring careers or hobbies related to agriculture.

Projects can center on plants and or animals and must involve students completing a planned activity that requires them to apply agricultural knowledge and skills. SAEs work to provide students with skills that can also be used to help them get jobs as well as to help them develop management and decision making skills.

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&dquo;Some students seem scared or reluctant when we first introduce the project to the class but making SAEs a requirement has opened up a lot of doors for our students,&dquo; says teacher Mitch Davis. &dquo;They are getting out into the community and meeting people, they are learning responsibility, and some are creating opportunities to make money for themselves.&dquo;

&dquo;Students can also use these projects to count towards their graduation project,&dquo; adds Davis. &dquo;Some of these students will also be submitting their projects to the state and will have an opportunity to win state and national awards.&dquo; &bsp;

Jamie Sessoms, a senior, Donovan Stott, a sophomore, and Jamie Hrobak and Alex Stott, both freshmen, recently shared information about their SAEs. Each SAE is unique to the student and reflects the many opportunities that careers in agriculture can offer.

Jamie Sessoms&squo; grandfathers run family farms and she says she hopes to follow in their footsteps. She completed a job-shadowing project last semester with her grandfather, Jimmy Higgins, on his cattle farm and is currently working with her other grandfather, Bob Searcy, on his vegetable farm. She works on daily tasks of cleaning and feeding animals, fertilizing crops and baling hay. She says that it is arduous work, but she enjoys it and plans on helping on her family&squo;s farms in the future.

Similarly, Jamie Hrobak completed a job-shadowing experience at Gerald Pack&squo;s horse farm, where she helped take care of and feed the horses and worked on day-to-day tasks associated with running a successful horse farm. She says that she enjoys the hard work and working with the horses during her job shadowing.

Sophomore Donavan Stott worked with Chris Stott of Stott&squo;s Paving, to build a motocross track in his backyard. He operated heavy equipment and planned the layout to create the half-acre track. His project centered on his love of motorcycle racing and he hopes to continue to pursue his hobby. Stott says that he enjoyed applying skills he learned in class while using the equipment and planning the track.

Freshman Alex Stott started a chicken business, building the coops and harvesting eggs as well as tending to and caring for the chickens. She currently has around 40 chickens and some young chicks that she raises.

These students say that their projects require taking responsibility and having a strong work ethic.

Although it is not required, some have invested money into their projects, as in the case of Alex Stott&squo;s chicken business. She says that she is still working to earn back her original investment, but has truly enjoyed the experience. She looks forward to pursuing a career in agriculture in the future, she says.

&dquo;It is hard work, but you learn so much about what it really takes to do these jobs,&dquo; says Jamie Sessoms, a thought that is echoed by the other students. All of the students are articulate and excited about their projects and view the challenges of their experiences as a positive and a realistic taste of careers in agriculture.

All students who take agriculture education classes at Polk County High are required to complete a project. The SAEs fall into the categories of entrepreneurship, placement, research, exploratory, improvement and supplemental.

According to the National FFA Organization, the SAE is the actual, hands-on application of concepts and principles learned in the agriculture education classroom. Students are supervised by their agriculture teachers in cooperation with parents, employers and others in the community who help them develop and achieve their educational and career goals.