‘I can get my palms soiled’—Culpeper public faculties provide 10 agriculture courses


Future Farmers of America has taken root locally, generating growing interest in careers in agriculture among Culpeper middle and high school students, including at Eastern View. The public school system is responding in kind with an expanding selection of farm-focused courses students can take for credit, and get career training while in class.

FFA Week was celebrated Feb. 18-25, locally and nationally, spotlighting the student-led organization originally formed by a group of young farmers to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing population.

The scope of FFA has blossomed through the years to include agriculture classes ranging from small animal care and vet science, to horticulture and floriculture, to advanced power systems. Culpeper County Public Schools offers 10 agriculture-based technical education classes, according to a recent release from the economic development office.

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EVHS covers FFA membership costs to ensure equal access to the club for all.

“I love animals and I love that FFA gives me an opportunity to participate in the Veterinary Science Career Development Event,” said EVHS Chapter Sentinel Hannah McDermott.

“Through my vet science class and team preparation, I am gaining hands on skills to use as I pursue a career in the veterinary field.”

A major deal, FFA competitions are team-based, allowing students to learn leadership, teamwork, communication, compromising and time management.

According to EVHS agriculture educator Melessa Suder, around 25-30 students participate in FFA competitions annually with several participating in more than one each year. Culpeper students regularly advance to the State FFA Convention held at Virginia Tech each summer, she said.

“Being an FFA officer has allowed me to learn and experience various leadership roles that will help me in my future career,” said EVHS FFA Chapter President Cassidy Wolfcale.

Agriculture students can share what they’ve learned and connect with the community through NEXUS events sponsored by Career Partners at Culpeper Technical Education Center.

“I enjoy FFA and agriculture classes as it provides me with experiences I wouldn’t have in other classes,” said EVHS sophomore Brett Howell.

NEXUS events this academic year had students showing visitors how to create Christmas table toppers and last month, a Valentine’s Day floral arrangement. Coming this spring, FFA students will demonstrate container gardening, a skill learned through hands-on experience.

In the new greenhouse at EVHS, students label pots, fill them with soil and plant seeds. They learn about taking cuttings and splitting plants.

A year-long labor of love, the greenhouse work culminates in a spring plant sale open to the public. A major success the past two years, plant sale profits provide funding for students to travel to state and national FFA competitions.

The greenhouse is currently utilized by three horticulture classes, according to the county. It is equipped with automated watering and a fertilizer injector, features at work in commercial greenhouses. The experience allow students to gain knowledge, making them qualified for entry level jobs in Culpeper.

“I like ag classes because I can get my hands dirty. I enjoy plants and animals, but I am interested in the landscape industry and am excited to learn more about growing plants,” said EVHS freshman Tyler Wray.

Culpeper County High School also has agriculture students and a greenhouse annual spring plant sale.


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