Cass High ag students dig the dirty work
by Mark Andrews
Mar 28, 2013 | 2161 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cass High Plant Sale
Cass High School students Wheeler Robbins, left, and Casey Thacker look over the marigolds and geraniums that will be sold at the school’s upcoming plant sale. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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For Cass High School seniors Casey Thacker and Wheeler Robbins, being pathway completers in the school’s agriculture program not only has allowed them to pursue personal interests, but also has been a way for the students to explore the various branches in the field of agriculture. After taking a course in agriculture their freshman year, the students have opted to take agriculture classes twice a year for the last three years.

Beginning in April, residents will be able to purchase some of the fruits of the agriculture program’s labor during the school’s annual plant sale.

“We do everything from forestry competitions, wildlife competitions, the [annual] plant sale, a bunch of greenhouse stuff, landscaping around the school — we do a little bit of everything,” Thacker said. “We do the dirty work.”

He explained the lessons taught in the agriculture program at CHS goes beyond farming and gardening.

“This class isn’t just about farming. A lot of people are under the impression that you take an agriculture class and they’re going to stick a pitchfork in your hand and send you out to the field, and that is by no means what this really is,” Thacker said.

He said, for example, students in the agriculture program even get a lesson in some of the aspects of cosmetology.

“With show cattle, you basically dress them up [for competitions] and it’s like a 1,000-pound dog,” Thacker said, laughing.

Thacker said he is interested in pursuing a career in landscaping.

In Robbins’ case, taking part in the CHS agriculture program has been a tradition passed down through his family, with multiple family members being taught by former instructor Connie Collier. He said he enjoys the hands-on aspects of the program.

“I like actually seeing stuff come together, like with the greenhouse — you get in there in August and it’s empty, then when you have the plant sale, it’s full and there’s no room to stick anything else,” Robbins said. “... I’ve had my heart set on going to school and doing something outdoors, sort of like landscaping, agriculture, natural resources.

“All my life I’ve been an outdoors kid, raised outside and playing with sticks, not sitting inside playing video games.”

He added, “We work on tractors, we work on our greenhouse and we’re in the process of making compost tumblers right now out of 50-gallon drums.”

Both students said they plan to apply what they’ve learned in the program to their future personal lives as well.

“When a guy takes this class and he grows up and gets married and starts using yard work, he can take what he’s learned in this class, building stuff and the greenhouse stuff, and apply that to his own yard,” Thacker said.

Outside of the work the students do for school and competition, Robbins and Thacker said they also donate their time to community service.

“We collected almost 300 cases of water and took it to Adairsville Elementary School when they were out of water [following the Jan. 30 tornado],” Robbins said. “[The program] goes from anything from learning moral lessons in life to teaching you how to get your hands dirty to earn what you need.”

Instructor Joey Dean said he’s optimistic about the future of the agriculture program, saying he feels the state’s new College and Career Ready Performance Index will allow classes under the realm of Career Technical and Agricultural Education to grow. The CCRPI is the new evaluation system developed by the state after previously acquiring a federal waiver from No Child Left Behind.

“It’s a good thing for these kids and for these programs to stay alive for years and years,” Dean said.

The plant sale will be held April 8-12, 15-19 and 22-24 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the school’s greenhouse. It will feature several varieties of tomatoes and peppers as well as the following: salvia, marigolds, colias, impatients, zinnias, Boston ferns, geraniums and varieties of wandering Jew begonias. Costs vary between $2 and $15.

For more information, contact Dean at CHS, 770-606-5845, ext. 1119.