ARCANUM — Members of Arcanum High School’s new agriculture satellite program presented highlights from the program’s first year to a local audience of supporters at the Wayne Trail Historical Society Thursday evening.
Alex Weiss, a senior at Arcanum-Butler and president of the school’s FFA chapter, is one of the students who helped get Arcanum’s agriculture program reinstated.
“When I got into high school and realized I wasn’t going to be able to have FFA, I started writing some letters,” Weiss said. Those letters caught the attention of Arcanum-Butler’s superintendent, who then reached out to administrators at the Miami Valley Career Technology Center (MVCTC), which already operated agriculture satellite programs at Tri-Village High School in New Madison, Mississinawa Valley, and Franklin-Monroe.
Now, a year after its reinstatement, the agriculture program at Arcanum-Butler boasts 94 members. Their dairy judging team took second place at state-level competition, with individual members also taking home awards at this year’s Great Darke County Fair. Arcanum students, including Weiss and Arcanum chapter FFA vice president Samantha McAllister, participated in the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, and are set to travel to the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin at the beginning of October.
McAllister, who plans to study agricultural education herself after graduating next year, agreed with Weiss about the need for an ag program at Arcanum-Butler.
“Both of us have grown up in an ag background,” McAllister said. “So it was hard not to think, ‘Every other school has it. Why don’t we?’”
The Arcanum-Butler school district revived its program at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, according to Wayne Trail program coordinator Barb Deis. Arcanum-Butler students can now take an entire four-year program of courses, taught by an MVCTC agriculture instructor, without having to commute daily to the school’s campus in Montgomery County.
“I was befuddled when Arcanum discontinued its ag program,” Deis said before introducing the Arcanum students, “because we’re a farming community.”
The Arcanum school board decided to end the program in the early 90s, according to Brian Pohlman, who worked as an instructor at Tri-Village High School’s satellite program for several years.
“It was always a head-scratcher why a community as agriculture-rich as Arcanum didn’t have an ag program,” Pohlman said. “It made quite a few people feel that they were missing out on something. But over time new people come in, and views change.”
Some of those who felt they were missing out, of course, included Arcanum students like Weiss and McAllister. And, in addition to reviving Arcanum’s agriculture program, their efforts created a unique opportunity for Pohlman.
“When I heard this was being discussed, I jumped at the chance to be a part of it,” said Pohlman, who now runs the agriculture program in Arcanum. “It’s not often someone gets a chance to build a program like this from scratch.”
According to Pohlman, the ag program’s students are the key to its extraordinary success.
“It starts with good kids from good families,” Pohlman said. “When you have good participation, it’s only a matter of time before that success starts to follow.”
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