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Front Row, Left to Right – Jennifer Hicks, Steve Kellet , Tonya Jedlicka, Marcia Kerschen, Ron Gould, Ruby Collins, Mark Collins, Glen Johnson   Back Row, Left to Right  - Jim Laughary, Justin Hicks, Jay Hale, Randy Pace, Dr. John Mulford, Dr. Fred Czerwonka, Bo Pace, Ralph Whitsell, Jack Randolph

Front Row, Left to Right – Jennifer Hicks, Steve Kellet , Tonya Jedlicka, Marcia Kerschen, Ron Gould, Ruby Collins, Mark Collins, Glen Johnson Back Row, Left to Right – Jim Laughary, Justin Hicks, Jay Hale, Randy Pace, Dr. John Mulford, Dr. Fred Czerwonka, Bo Pace, Ralph Whitsell, Jack Randolph

(West Plains) – The West Plains High School Future Farmers of America students and their supporters have begun a “Raising the Barn” fundraising campaign to build a new agriculture science facility.

The “Raising the Barn” campaign aims to create an agriculture science facility that will give hands-on experience to the more than 200 students who take agricultural science classes at the high school each year. The proposed facility is set to be built on a vacant lot owned by the West Plains School District on Olden Street.

The current building is 8,400 square feet and is approximately 40 years old. The building limits program expansion and course offerings due to inadequate space of the facility. With the evolving need for more science based agriculture and the lack of current space available, a new facility will help meet the needs of educating tomorrow’s agriculturists.

When completed, the new facility will offer a 10,500 square foot space that supports current trends in agriculture and will provide a home for future growth. The increased space will allow for additional instructional staff, additional classrooms, lab space, expanded course offerings, and the potential implementation of an agriculture program for middle school grades.

“The Agriculture Science curriculum is evolving.” said Tonya Jedlicka, who teaches Agriculture Science at the West Plains High School. “We want our students to gain the hands on experience that is required to be successful in today’s agriculture industry. The Raising the Barn” campaign is going to enable us to be a fully functioning agriculture facility that we can be proud of. It’s not just going to help the 200 students we serve now, but the students in the next 20 years to come.”

The West Plains High School’s FFA club boasts more than 200 members, many of them on paths to enter careers in agricultural science or agribusiness.

Students will learn everything from the right way to trim a goat’s hooves to testing soil to the latest agriculture mechanics techniques. Jedlicka sees many of her students becoming interested in other aspects of agriculture, such as the emerging field of biotechnology, which spins off into diverse specialties from alternative fuel to pharmaceuticals.

“The new facility will offer more agricultural opportunities for students,” said Jedlicka. “The new agriculture science facility”, she said, “will help prepare them not only for the present, but for the future of agriculture as well.

Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports only 1 percent of the U.S. population list farming as their occupation, agriculture is still a crucial subject to study. In 1960, the average farmer fed 26 people, but today each farmer feeds an average of 155 people. U.S. farmers also provide 40 percent of the world’s corn supply.

“It’s a huge part of the economy here,” said Shawn Rhoads, 154th District Missouri State Representative. “The area is the second-largest cattle producer in Missouri. There’s an opportunity to grow Ag jobs and the Ag economy”.

The estimated cost of the project is estimated at $800,000. The West Plains Schools Board of Education has pledged $300,000 of district dollars to the Ag Building project. The balance will be funded through the “Raising the Barn” campaign. Donations can be one time or spread over a five year period.

Groundbreaking is set to begin summer of 2013.

A campaign brochure is available online at www.zizzers.org/agscience or one can be picked up at the West Plains Schools Board of Education Office at 305 Valley View Drive. For further more information on the “Raising the Barn” campaign, contact Tonya Jedlicka or Jay Hale at 256-6150. Anyone wishing to make a pledge is asked to make their check payable to the West Plains Schools and send it to 305 Valley View Drive, West Plains, MO 65775.

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