The Madera South Agriculture Department and Madera FFA chapter is one of the 10 largest chapters in the United States. You will frequently see evidence of their success around town, but rarely do we talk about the activities that happen daily to educate students about the agriculture industry through hands on exposure.
The Madera Agriculture Department takes pride in offering their students hands on learning opportunities in and out of the classroom. The Madera South Agriculture teachers look for ways to utilize the Madera South High School’s 20-acre school farm to develop supervised agricultural experience projects that allow students real world application of skills they learned in their agriculture classes.
In the past few years the farm has grown from just a few horses to now include a flock of sheep, a rabbit cooperative, a three acre vineyard, one-acre of tangelo citrus and this summer, a one acre corn field was planted. These projects, whether they are animal projects or farming projects, are all managed by students and overseen by one of the eight agriculture teachers on campus. Having students manage the school farm is one of the unique things about their high school experience.
While managing the many varied projects students are able to see the production of agriculture from seed to harvest. Students get a full understanding of the hard work and dedication it takes to be in the agriculture production industry. Students are responsible for all management practices from weeding, pruning, harvesting, and fertilizer applications. They are trained by the high school agriculture teachers and spend a few days harvesting the crop. The grapes and tangelos take a few days to harvest. The corn was harvested throughout the summer, with different parts of the field being ripe at different times, it was important that the students keep a close eye on when the corn was ready in order to have the best tasting corn at harvest time.
Some of the crops are already sold through contracts with businesses in Madera, while others have to be marketed and sold by the students directly. Having access to such a great school farm laboratory has helped to develop students with a passion and knowledge of the agriculture industry that prepares them for careers outside of high school.