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Ag class at new Buffalo High 'a perfect fit'

BUFFALO, W.Va. -- As students arrive at the new Buffalo High School today, Danielle Grant starts what she says is her dream job.

In her jeans, brown leather boots and matching belt, the 24-year-old unpacked boxes Wednesday of things to decorate her classroom, many with barnyard decals.

Grant, a Pendleton County native, who describes her childhood as growing up on "Old MacDonald's Farm," will teach the new Agricultural Science course at Buffalo.

"This is my dream job, literally. To start my own program and build it from the ground up with the support of the community -- it makes me really, really excited," she said.

The new high-tech Buffalo High earned approval from the state Department of Education earlier this year to be an innovation zone. Those are schools that receive waivers to state policy allowing them to try out new, research-based strategies in an effort to improve student learning.

The agriculture class will consist of, among other things, participation in the national Future Farmers of America organization and a project where students implement what they've learned at an actual farm or in the community, Grant said.

Gritts Midway Greenhouse in Eleanor partnered with the school and was a driving force behind getting the program started, according to Grant.

Putnam schools Superintendent Chuck Hatfield said the Gritts notified school officials that they were having a hard time finding people to hire with agricultural education.

"We didn't realize it, but Putnam is the third largest horticulture county in the state of West Virginia, so it's a perfect fit," Hatfield said. "We worked with the county farm bureau and did a survey which showed students had a high interest in that type of program, especially in the Buffalo area."

Maggie Parsons, 16, of Red House, who was at the school Wednesday helping teachers unpack, said she grew up on a farm and is excited about the new program.

"The [Future Farmers of America] is really something I want to get into," Parsons said. "There's so many farms around here, ... and I think a lot of students are going to be interested."

The agricultural science program won't be only about animals and farming, though, Grant said.

"It's not realistic to think agriculture is just farming. It's technology, cell biology, it's very research based and record keeping is a huge component," Grant said. "It's so much more."

About 35 students have already signed up to take the course this semester, and Grant believes as word spreads about the program it will grow.

"It's not just for kids who farm. Ag relates to everything -- food, clothing, and there's the mechanical side," Grant said. "We all have to eat, and the consumer education side of it is just as important."

Grant got her undergraduate degree at Potomac State University and earned her masters in agriculture science at West Virginia University. She lives with her husband on a farm about 20 minutes away from the school in Mason County where they raise cattle. Last year, she taught agricultural science at Lincoln County High School, but came to Buffalo because it's closer to home and has a smaller student body.

 "I spent time at the [Putnam] county fair a few weeks ago and the community support about the new program was unreal. I could probably think of five people I've met recently who would come and plow all this land today," she said referring to the seven acres adjacent to the school that American Electric Power leased to the program.

Grant said she wants to make her class as hands-on as possible so she won't hesitate to bring a cow, fish or a chicken for students to examine.

"It's going to be a lot of fun," she said.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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