ESD expands ag program; college discussing partnering with MSU.

August 19, 2015
Jorhie Beadle Beadle is the new CTE agriscience instructor.

Jorhie Beadle Beadle is the new CTE agriscience instructor.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

VICTORY TOWNSHIP (Mason County) — Agricultural education in this area is seeing a resurgence. The West Shore Educational Service District is expanding it agricultural science program to Mason County while West Shore Community College is in talks with Michigan State University to provide an agricultural technology program here.

Beginning this fall, the ESD’s Career Technology Education (CTE) program will hold classes on the main campus of West Shore Community College in addition to Hart High School. Leading that program will be Jorhie Beadle Beadle, a recent graduate of Michigan State University and alumnus of Mason County Central High School

Agriculture is the third largest industry in Michigan, according to Michigan State. It is also one of the top industries in Mason, Oceana and Manistee counties as well. Nationally there are 54,400 agricultural-related job openings for individuals with four-year and higher college degrees, according to Michigan Farm Bureau. However, only 55 percent of the job openings are expected to be filled by graduates who earned degrees from colleges of agriculture, life sciences, natural resources and veterinary medicine.

Agricultural education in local high schools used to be common place. However, those programs basically disappeared in the early 1980s. As the sustainable agriculture movement increases in popularity, agricultural education is seeing a resurgence.

Lynda Matson, principal of the ESD’s CTE program, said the agriscience program began as a Hart High School program. Two years ago the ESD became the fiduciary agent for the program and chose to expand it into Mason County.

“Agriculture is a program that fits with the type of service the CTE is trying to provide and it makes sense that we are able to offer it to all area high school students. Many of our students come from farming families and have expressed interests in continuing in that industry.”

Matson said 27 students are currently enrolled in the program. “That’s a high number for our ag program,” she said.

Matson said the previous instructor of the program resigned recently for personal reasons. “We were very lucky to be able to hire Jorhie Beadle. She is going to be a great addition to our teaching staff.”

Beadle was born and raised in Carr Settlement, along the Mason-Lake counties line. After graduating from Mason County Central, she attended West Shore. She then transferred to MSU where she earned a bachelor’s degree in horticulture with a minor in environmental studies and sustainability and a concentration in organic and sustainable agriculture.

“It has always been a career goal to be in the classroom, and I recognized that the CTE position was the perfect synthesis of my passion for education and agriculture (and in a beautiful part of the world),” Beadle said. “I am thrilled to share what I have learned about various farming practices, and how food production around the globe, even in Mason and Oceana counties, largely impacts society and the environment. Michigan is second, behind California, in agricultural diversity, which contributed to my affinity towards a Great Lakes state job. I am also beyond grateful for the support my small community has granted me, and I am eager to return home to do the same for students pursuing a degree in agriculture.

“The CTE program has so much potential to inspire the next generation of agriculturalist. Mason and Oceana counties are agrarian communities and heavily supported by local farms. I am thrilled to work with community members to provide a well-rounded view of food production to students within the district- from livestock and plants, to processing, marketing, and delivery.  I am anxious to get the program growing, and can’t wait to see what it blossoms into (pun intended).”

Crystal Young, director of WSCC’s Business Opportunity Center, said she has been in discussions with Michigan State to offer an associate’s degree and certificate in agricultural technology locally. Students in the program would earn credits from Michigan State.

  “WSCC is listening to what business and industry is saying; what programs they would like to see as well as what we can do to help fulfill their needs and make them more successful,” Young said. “I believe this is a really exciting time in our community as many of these conversations are taking place and action is quickly following.”

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