Agriscience students plant crops on borrowed land

Published 3:54 pm Tuesday, May 13, 2014

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Chilton County High School Agriscience students (left to right) Brandon Bolding, Caloub Baker, Cameron Wright, Cole Watley, Reese Staggs, Grant Henderson and Colton Fells planted seeds on three acres of borrowed land May 7 as part of a class project.

Agriscience students at Chilton County High School are experiencing first-hand what it’s like to cultivate agricultural crops on a multi-acre plot of land.

With the help of Agriscience instructor Marlon Harton, eight students in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter at CCHS planted seeds on three acres of land May 7 and will be responsible for tending and harvesting the crops this summer.

“It’s a good opportunity for students to understand what farming is about on a small scale,” Harton said. “I think it’s a good lesson. I want to teach them to respect agriculture, the place where most of their goods and food come from.”

Students planted seeds for Silver King sweet corn, Jubilee II watermelon, Athena cantaloupe and squash.

The land the students are using belongs to Ray and Debra Sosa and is located on County Road 41 in the Clanton city limits.

Like Harton, Ray is a career tech instructor at CCHS and offered to allow the students to plant and grow crops on five acres of his land.

Although students are only utilizing three acres this year, Harton said he plans to include all five acres if this year’s crops turn out well.

“This is the first time we’ve had this much land to use,” Harton said. “We hope to incorporate the other two remaining acres if we have good rain and a good yield.”

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CCHS Agriscience students plant seeds on a plot of land in Clanton that Ray and Debra Sosa offered to allow them to use for a class project. This summer, the students will harvest their crops of sweet corn, watermelon, cantaloupe and squash, possibly to sell to a local market.

Prior to the arrangement with the Sosas, the only land CCHS Agriscience students had access to for gardening was a 50-by-50-foot area behind the school’s greenhouse.

In addition to providing students with project-based learning, Harton’s hope for the land is that it will yield enough viable produce to sell to a local market.

Proceeds from sales of the fruits and vegetables the students harvest from the land would go toward book scholarships FFA started offering to graduating seniors this year.

“We hope these efforts will allow us to add to that scholarship and increase it,” Harton said.

Parker White, Nick Stinson and Stephon Kine are the recipients of three separate $150 book scholarships from FFA.

Harton said the program would also give a portion of harvested produce to the 11th Area of Alabama Opportunity Action Committee Inc., also known as Community Action, for disbursement to people in need.

Harton said the 11th Area Community Action group gave a generous donation to his Agriscience program for the land project.

“The donation has helped us buy fertilizer and seeds, which are very expensive because we used all hybrids,” Harton said. “Hopefully, the hybrids will produce greater yields and be less susceptible to disease.”

Harton said he would set up a rotation for students to go out to the land at least twice a week throughout the summer to spray pesticides and remove weeds.

Most of the crops are expected to be ready for harvesting in mid- to late-July.

Harton said several of his former students helped break ground at the start of the project.

Harton expressed gratitude to the Chilton County Board of Education, CCHS Principal Cynthia Stewart and Career Tech Director Tommy Glasscock for allowing Agriscience students to use the land as part of their education, as well as Mickey Bates with Clanton Tractor, Tim Pierce, Warren Ford with Ford Farms and Walter Postell with Postell Farms for contributing to the project.

“I’m excited about it because it’s been a dream of mine for some time,” Harton said. “It’s just a way to get some first-hand agricultural knowledge.”