OVSD purchases working farm for students

The area around the Ohio Valley Career and Technical Center in West Union will soon be the site of a working farm, operated by local students. (Photo by Patricia Beech)

School farm will provide hands-on experience for local vocational students – 

By Patricia Beech – 

The members of the Ohio Valley Local School District Board of Education on Monday, May 21 authorized the purchase of a working farm adjacent to the West Union High School campus on Lloyd Road in West Union.
The school board authorized Superintendent Rich Seas and OVSD Treasurer Brian Switzer to execute any documents necessary to secure the purchase of the 173-acre farm from owner, Eugene Vogler.
According to Seas, the purchase agreement adopted by the board allows for the purchase of the property and dwellings at a cost of $5,000 per acre. At closing, the school will pay $200,000 with payments of $81,125 per year over the next eight years, interest free.
Seas said the property was not purchased with school operating funds.
“The money used to pay for the property is Permanent Improvement Dollars which are used to purchase items with a lifespan of five years or more,” Seas said in an email to the Defender. “We’re grateful to Gene Vogler for providing us the opportunity to purchase the property interest free.”
Permanent Improvement dollars (which are state issued) cannot be used to pay for salaries according to the Ohio Revised Code.
Seas also said that the farm will provide opportunities to strengthen and expand current programming at the at Ohio Valley Career and Technical Center (CTC).
“The purchase of the property allows for our staff to be creative in program development, community partnerships, and educational opportunities provided to our students,” he said. “For example, not many schools have a working farm. Imagine our own students or students from surrounding schools taking a field trip to the West Union campus to visit a working farm. I’m looking forward to the development of the programs associated with the purchase of the property.”
CTC Ag Business instructor Luke Rhonemus says the purchase has generated a lot of excitement.
“We’re going to be one of the most unique agriculture career centers in the state of Ohio,” says Rhonemus. “Our students are going to have real-life, hands-on experiences on the farm to prepare them for them for the thousands of jobs that exist in the agriculture industry. They’ll also be learning skills they can use to own and operate any kind of business.”
No school funds will be used to operate the farm, according to Rhonemus.
“We generate our own dollars in the Ag Business program,” he says. “That’s what’s so beautiful about this opportunity. Farming is about dollars and cents and record keeping. There’s some things you can’t control, but you can control the accounting end of it, and our students get first-hand experience doing that. They keep the records and budget everything. They also get to be the ones who actually operate the farm and experience planting and harvesting crops. At minimum, they’re going to acquire skills they can apply to lots of different jobs and business opportunities.”
Junior and Senior Ag classes will each work three hours a day on the farm.
In addition to using the fields for growing grain, the farm will also be available to students in other fields of study. Students in the CTC’s forestry program will have access to wooded areas where they will prepare for work in the forestry industry by creating a timber management plan for a timber harvest. FFA chapters are welcome to use the farm as a research tool. Students in the carpentry program will build and repair structures, and students in Ag Mechanics will provide day-to-day maintenance on machinery and equipment.
Brad White, who teaches Ag Mechanics and Industrial Power at the CTC, says some lessons are better learned hands-on.
“You can only teach a kid so much inside four walls,” he says. “This farm will provide opportunities not only for harvest equipment to be serviced and maintained, but also ground preparation and tillage equipment. Those are opportunities I can’t create within the four walls of a classroom.”
According to White, machinery maintenance and upgrades will be paid for by funds generated from crops grown on the property, with help from the business community.
“The farm, first and foremost, pays for itself,” he says. “We have a great working relationship with several of the local feed companies. They bend over backwards to help our kids out. They provide all the soybeans and corn we put in the ground in return for us doing test plots for them. That takes time but when you get a $20,000 pallet of seed corn that’s provided because we did a little work for them on our end, it really pays off for us, and the kids get to see that there are opportunities out there like that.”
Rhonemus thinks the farm will draw some much-needed attention to Adams County.
“I think it’s interesting that colleges are looking at us and liking what we’re doing. The fact that we have something that is hands-on learning and about as close to real life as you can get is going to have people wanting to see what we’re doing in Adams County,” he says. “I think that’s the best part of all of it.”
According to studies done by the research firm, Open Access, the school farm is an important component of Agricultural Science which provides students unique learning opportunities such as: “generating circumstances for students to market agricultural products; providing students with supervised occupational experience in agricultural productivity; and encouraging the use of records and reports similar to those used in agriculture”.
The organization also found that “school principals rated the school farm as very important in giving students practical experience, promoting agricultural skills by giving the students opportunities to carry out demonstration plots and conduct agricultural experiments among others”.