Submitted by the Vinton Shellsburg Agriculture Education Advisory Committee

The Vinton Shellsburg Ag Education Advisory committee was formed prior to the construction of the new high school to assist in identifying current needs and anticipate future needs of students interested in agriculture and leadership development. With the enthusiasm generated from the construction of a new high school, the advisory committee began to assess where the program was and contemplate what it could be.

Historically students who enrolled in ag classes were farm kids and were interested in learning about traditional farming practices. Now retired, Mr. Duane Fisher, the long-time V-S Ag Ed Instructor and legendary FFA Advisor, successfully taught more than a generation of students about production agriculture. Many of his former students are successful in their careers because of the classroom education and FFA leadership development they acquired under his direction.

FFA had become the premier youth leadership organization in the country by providing students the opportunity to develop life skills through living the FFA Motto: Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve. The organization changed from the “Future Farmers of America” to “The National FFA Organization”, capitalizing on its already established reputation for developing outstanding leaders.

Over time the number of farm kids, and consequently students enrolled in ag classes, continued to diminish but the need for well educated students within agriculture related fields continued to grow. As FFA was rebranding itself, classroom curriculum was evolving as well, making itself more attractive to a broader audience. At Vinton Shellsburg students were polled by new ag teacher Louise Fleming, to see what agricultural topics they would be interested in learning about. She took their requests to heart, developed courses they wanted, and the result was more than 150 different students enrolled in ag education courses. This years enrollment in Ag I, aqua science, animal science, ag business, landscape design, natural resources, intro to horticulture, and vet med totaled 306 students. Some courses are offered on alternating years, including principles of agronomy and precision farming.

The evolution continues. These students may be, but generally are not, traditional ag students. They may hail from a farm family who makes their living from ag production, but are more likely to be students from town or non-farming rural residents. So their needs are different. Traditional “farm kids” experienced the farm. Contemporary ag students need the farm brought to them. They need experiential learning.

They need “the barn”. Actually, they need the Animal Learning Lab. They need a facility for hands on instruction for horses, cattle, swine, sheep, poultry, rabbits, and companion animals. They need a learning space for non traditional learning opportunities including the dissection of plants and animals, post mortem evaluations, and other (messy) activities not appropriate for a traditional classroom. They need a place, other than the greenhouse, to house chickens and rabbits for study. They need a second classroom to accommodate the growth of the program and another teacher.

The Vinton-Shellsburg School Board approved $135,000 plus professional fees and awarded the contract to Dan’s Custom Homes of Anamosa for the construction of the Animal Learning Lab by August 1, 2014. The Vinton-Shellsburg Ag Ed Advisory Committee has embraced the challenge of raising $150,000 to build and equip this learning center. Our work behind the scenes, coupled with generous contributors, has allowed us to successfully raise nearly $120,000 to support this project. Now we are soliciting support from all interested parties by “going public” with our efforts. Your contribution is important regardless of its size. Your pledge will demonstrate to others your commitment to this worthy project and that you “exert an influence in my home and community which will stand solid for my part in that inspiring task” (the last line of the FFA creed).

Your tax deductible contribution can be mailed to Vinton-Shellsburg School Foundation, Attn. Mike Barron, P.O. Box 640, Vinton Iowa, 52349.

Advisory Committee members:

John Holst, Chair 319 560 8302

Mark Pingenot 319 560 9079

Linda Fischer 319 350 1046

Todd Wiley 319 560 2245

Susie Henkle 319 929 4517

Jim Huber 319 560 9658

Calvin Rickels 319 560 2836

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