Ag program cultivating new opportunities at Gibault - Republic-Times | News

Ag program cultivating new opportunities at Gibault

By on October 10, 2012 at 11:04 am

When you think of Gibault Catholic High School, agriculture is probably not the first thing that comes to mind.

But with the implementation of its new agriculture program this fall, Gibault has become the first Catholic school in the state to have an FFA chapter, according to Dean Dittmar of Illinois Agriculture Education.

Members of the new FFA chapter gather at Gibault Catholic High School. Pictured, front row, from left, are Kelsey Osterhage, Kassie Heise, Caroline Kernan and Aneliesa Gilipin; back row: Brendan Litteken, Dillon Scheibe, John Harbaugh, Colin Kruse, Denver Purcell, Adam Kreher, Grant Garner, Natalie Schweiger, William Sheperd, Gilbert Birkner, Michaela Muich, Matthew Schreder, Elizabeth Roever and Morgan Weber. (Teryn Schaefer photo)

And the reception has been “more than I had even hoped for,” said Gibault ag instructor Carolyn Kish.

“It’s always important to reach out to non-public schools,” Dittmar said. “The importance is providing the opportunity to all kids.”

With its immediate success, Gibault’s new agriculture program has planted the seed for its students, who have now begun to think about going into an ag-related field when they graduate.

“We need more than just farm families. We have so many more job opportunities in agribusiness,” explained Dittmar, who was an ag instructor at Waterloo High School from 1985 to 1990. Kish agreed.

“It hasn’t been called Future Farmers of America for years now,” she said, adding that FFA encompasses so much more now than just growing up on a farm.

Students like Adam Kreher say they now would like to go into a field such as diesel mechanics after high school.

“At first, I wasn’t too thrilled,” fellow student Matthew Schreder said. But after a few guests came into the class to speak about agri-business, Schreder said “it influenced me to think about going into it.”

Now a senior, Schreder said he is looking into area schools that offer agriculture-based degrees. He was also voted the first Gibault Catholic FFA Chapter President.

The enthusiasm by the program’s students and community support from local businesses and other school ag programs has allowed the program to have such short-term success.

“It really is a tight-knit community,” Kish said. “Everyone is helping out.”

This weekend, Gibault FFA members are putting up a greenhouse donated by Diehl’s Florist. The greenhouse is one of many projects these students have taken on as a part of the program.

Gibault’s ag program has about 20 students, which Kish and school principal Russ Hart expects will double next year. Students will soon begin their Supervised Agriculture Experience projects. The SAEs require students to individualize a year-long, hands-on project to fit their interests.

“The goal is to get them out there working in the ag industry,” explained Kish, who says the community has been eager to welcome the students and show them the ropes.

Student projects range from raising livestock, researching invasive species and regulating crop growth to helping raise and care for horses.

Gibault senior Caroline Kernan says she chose to help work at the stables where she boards her own horse.

“It will be fun… I’ll be more motivated to get out there,” she said.

Both Kish and Dittmar say that is the goal — for students to get out there and realize all the ag-related opportunities in the region with local companies like Gateway FS and William Nobbe John Deere to St. Louis companies like Monsanto, Con-Ag, Purina and bio-tech companies.

In addition, Illinois and Missouri colleges and universities offer everything from forestry to animal science and environmental engineering degrees.

All of these doors have now been opened to Gibault students, thanks to a phone call Principal Hart received from a student in Red Bud last year.

“He said he wanted to come here, but wanted to take agriculture classes,” Hart explained.

So, with the help of Dittmar and the luck of having a teacher with a degree in animal production from the University of Kentucky on staff, Hart did just that.

Students are being offered an “Introduction to Agriculture Industry” course this year, with plans to add a new class each year for the next few years.

“It all came full circle,” said Kish, who never thought she would be heading an ag program years after she left the equestrian field for teaching.

Teryn Schaefer

Teryn was born and raised in Waterloo, growing up watching local sports and Mon-Clair baseball. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri Journalism School and loves cheering on her Tigers any chance she gets.