The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

October 16, 2013

Agriculture program flourishes at Danville

By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News

— DANVILLE – The school district has been sowing the seeds of its agriculture program for years, and its FFA club got to show off that success at Danville High School’s Fall Harvest Festival, held on Oct. 8.

Hosted by the district FFA club, the festival attracted 17 local agriculture vendors who came to support the district’s agriculture program.

“It’s a good starting point, obviously we have a lot of community support,” said eighth-grade science teacher Mackenzie McCollum, referring to the number of vendors on display.

McCollum, who just began teaching with the district this year, is a Danville alum who was hired to help start extending the agriculture program to the middle school. “It (Danville) is a great district to start agriculture literacy at an early age,” she said, due in part to the backing of the community.

Right now, she has 30 students in her eighth-grade agriculture class, with about another 10 in sixth and seventh grade who are participating in “supervised agricultural experiences.” The formal agriculture class does not begin in the district until eighth grade, but students who still want to learn and be involved in the district’s FFA group can do so through these SAEs, McCollum said. “These are the kids who come seek me out because they’ve heard about it (the agriculture program),” she said.

One such student is sixth-grader Morgan Squier. Her SAE has her working with horses owned by high school agriculture teacher Kelly Smith-Wells. “I just like horses and being outside,” Morgan said.

Danville’s agriculture program has even attracted students from outside the district. Melissa Owens just started her freshman year at Danville, after transferring from the Shikellamy school district. She made the change largely because of the good things she heard about Danville’s agriculture program, a course which her old district did not offer.

“I never really liked the Shikellamy school district, and once I learned I could take the agriculture program here I switched,” she said.

At this past Bloomsburg Fair, Melissa took home the award for third best horse judge, junior division, as a member of Danville’s FFA group.

Melissa, whose family operates a 112-acre Sunbury farm where they raise chickens, pigs and sheep, is also currently involved in an SAE where she is conducting an experiment on mouse genetics.

 

Email questions or comments to rstoneback@thedanvillenews.com.