If you grew up in New England over the last 50 years, its transformation from bucolic farmland to suburban sprawl has been steady and inexorable. But the future of Massachusetts' rocky farmland may now rest in the hands of a growing number of agricultural students and vocational instructors who hope to bring local farming back to the region.
Vocational schools, including Essex North Shore Agricultural & Technical School in Danvers, have seen a surge in applications and interest in their farming, veterinary, environmental, and land management shops. And, some non-agricultural vocational schools, including Shawsheen Valley Technical High School in Billerica, have incorporated courses like horticulture into their curricula to support areas like culinary arts/hospitality management.
Jackson said districts, including his own, have been working directly with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education [DESE] to update the state's vocational admissions policy to include the language of origin for all public school eighth-graders. With that information, schools are able to translate announcements from the vocational campuses in the hopes of drawing more diverse candidates.
Shawsheen Tech science teacher Laurie Grant's horticulture course kicked off in 2018 through a farm-to-table grant received by the school as a way to provide the cafeteria/cafe with fresh produce. Grant's students work out of a 14x30 greenhouse constructed in part by shop students and utilized by all grades and trades. "I want to teach kids where food comes from before becomes lost knowledge," Grant said.
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