After a high teacher turnover rate in the agriculture department at Anson High School, Dana Wood stepped up to revitalize the program at a national level. Anson High School had gone through four teachers leading the agriculture department in the past five to six years. But when Wood stepped onto campus after teaching in three other states, he was determined to stay.
“I think the turnover just unfortunately makes it difficult to grow a program,” Wood said. “It’s like anything else, you work to build a rapport with students and they start to talk positively about the program. The next year they start inviting their friends and the program starts growing that way.”
The program has grown from about 60 to 130 students since Wood started in March of 2017. This has allowed the high school to hire an additional agriculture teacher, Emilie Fowler, which Wood believes marks the first time the program has ever had a second teacher.
Fowler graduated from Anson Early College in 2018, followed by graduating from Brevard College with a Bachelor’s in Agricultural Education. Soon after graduation, she received a phone call with a job offer to come back to Anson High School. “I think it is important that my generation, as well as the future generations and the ones below me know where their meats are coming from, where their vegetables are coming from,” Fowler said. “The (agriculture) industry, in my eyes, is the back bone of everything because you get all the food, fiber, natural resources.”
Fowler wants her students to understand the production behind going to the grocery store and seeing produce on the shelves. The whole industry is much more than that.
Although Anson is a largely rural county, most of the students that go through the high school’s agriculture program do not have a background in farming. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on-farm jobs accounted for only 1.3% of the United States employment in 2019. Wood said this national statistic still holds up in Anson County.
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