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This famous last line of horse racing is an appropriate way to sum up the end of the school year. We are in the home stretch with only 2 weeks to go until summer vacation. FFA activities for the year are pretty much finished as State Convention is behind us and our first FFA Banquet was a success. We took our final field trip this week, the amount of plants in the greenhouse is growing less and less each day, and the only major class assignment left is the final exam. The plant sale was a raging success and one of the local towns purchased their plants for city hall from the program. This year flew by and as things start to wind down, the time to reflect has arrived. However, I'll save that for the next blog post. I'd like to use this one to show what we've been up to lately.

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Planting flowers for one of the local towns to put outside their city hall.

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We visited "The Rainbow on the Hill" aka Presby Memorial Iris Gardens and home to the world's largest private collection of irises for our final field trip.

 

We'll start with State Convention. Held last week at Rutgers, we had 7 members in attendance (our most ever) and they had a BLAST! They looked and acted professional, and represented our school and chapter with pride. 4 members received their FFA jackets through the Blue Jackets, Bright Futures Program and we also received the 3rd place FFA Week Award! One of our chapter delegates served as her committee's chair and the chapter received an H.O. Sampson silver rating for involvement in state level FFA activities. However, the award we were most excited about was our Superior Chapter Award with a silver ranking through the National Superior Chapter Award Program. Last year was the first year we participated in the program, and we received a bronze ranking. To improve up a level in one year is a huge testament to how hard the chapter has worked to improve and grow. I am immensely proud of their accomplishments!

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Superior Chapter Award

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Representing our chapter with pride!

 

We held our first FFA Banquet yesterday. Having never been to an FFA Banquet before, I was flying blind when planning it out, but got some great help from another FFA advisor (thanks Robin!) who sent me her script and other materials to use as references. The script topped out at a whopping 36 pages, and we conducted Discovery, Greenhand, Chapter, and Honorary Chapter Degree ceremonies. We also thanked community members, honored FFA members for achievements, recapped CDEs and chapter activities, and had guest speakers. Members stepped up to the plate and brought in lots of delicious food (including our homemade FFA themed ice cream!), made the table decorations, and set up the cafeteria for the banquet in less than 15 minutes. The officers did a fantastic job, and conducted themselves like true pros. For many of them, it was their first time speaking in front of more than just our chapter members, and they were awesome! We also had support from our school and community with administrators, parents, our county executive, our state ag education leader, and representatives from the county board of ag, 4H, and SAE placement sites present. It was a wonderful event and I am so proud of my FFA chapter for pulling it off!

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Great job FFA officers!

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Discovery Degree Candidates

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Food time!

 

And so, we are in the final furlongs of the school year. Before we know it, school will be out and the lazy (or crazy), hot, and hazy days of summer will be here. It's been a wild ride this year, but boy, was it fun! Hope everyone has a successful conclusion to their school year and look for s'Morey once things slow down a bit.

 

-TM

Welcome WALL-E!

Posted by Tiffany Morey May 17, 2013

I would like to take this post in introduce the newest member of the ECVTS ag science program: WALL-E! WALL-E is a MEWU (mobile edible wall unit) and is on loan to us for the next year from the amazing folks at New Jersey Farm to School Network. WALL-E is going to help us grow lots of food for our culinary arts program, and will also serve as a neat new way to incorporate STEM into ag science classes. Built by Green Living Technologies, WALL-E is the second of it's kind to find a home in a New Jersey school, and the first in an ag science program. WALL-E is equipped with wheels for easily movability, a vertical drip irrigation/watering system, 72 aerated individual growing boxes on 3 distinct levels, and a moveable grow light with a timer. WALL-E is also a celebrity and appeared on the Today Show in NYC before coming to us. We are insanely excited to have WALL-E in our classroom and can't wait for all the amazing things we are going to accomplish together!

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WALL-E arrives at ECVTS!

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Getting a crash course in WALL-E management from George Irwin, founder of Green Living Technologies.

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WALL-E being a celebrity in NYC on the Today Show a few weeks ago.

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Posing for a pic with WALL-E, Beth Feehan-Director/Founder of NJ Farm to School, and my CTE Director

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Planting basil in the growing box units

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Filling WALL-E's watering drip system pan

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Basil and lettuce are planted! Botton level crop TBD.

 

And so, we enter into a new era of agriculture in our program, and are going to experiment with WALL-E to grow as much food as we can! If any other ag teachers here on CoP have experience with MEWUs, green walls, or vertical growing systems, please e-mail me at tmorey@essextech.org with any tips/tricks/suggestions on how to best manage these units for maximum production. Our goal is to have the lettuce and basil grow and mature through the summer, so that they will be producing enough to harvest when school starts back up. We also hope to hook the power source for the grow light up to a solar panel to make it powered by green energy, and to install a pump system to recycle the water from the catch basin at the bottom to the drip pan at the top to conserve water. It may be a bit ambitious, but I think we can make it happen! Next week is State Convention, so look for s'Morey in a few weeks! Enjoy the weekend!

 

-TM

Matt Eddy

Stumblin' along...

Posted by Matt Eddy May 15, 2013

Here is a guest blog I wrote for Kelly Rivard.  She blogs about lots of things, but agriculture is one of them. She was looking for an "I am Agriculture" post from various parts of the industry and I suggested that an Ag Teacher would be a good addition.  I also guess my tweet was my volunteering.  Do you ever feel like that scene in the movies where they are asking a line of troops for one volunteer for a dangerous mission with 0% of success and all the troops take one step back and one rube is left looking around going "Huh?" Somedays - that's me.    Check it out.

 

Guest Post: The Face of Agriculture Education | kellymrivard.com

 

What opportunities to tell the Ag Ed story have you stumbled into lately?  Share with the rest of us!

Jessie Lumpkins

Carrying On

Posted by Jessie Lumpkins May 13, 2013

I'm really into collecting music on my iPod (that I received as a Christmas present in 2006 and it's still kickin!) One of my current favorites in rotation is Fun.'s Carry On. The best line is "Let your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground."


I used to think that leaving things in the past, or making something part of your past instead of the present, shows that you don't care anymore. The growth I've done in the past few weeks, aided by my students, has shown me that isn't the case, and that carrying on doesn't mean ignoring the importance of the people and the memories we made with them.


After much consideration, deliberation, and contemplation, I decided to take a new teaching position in the Metro Nashville Public School District here in Tennessee. I have always found the prospect of a school district in a urban area interesting ever since I heard about Corey Flournoy and his Chicago Ag Science chapter. The exciting opportunity I'll have in my new position is something I've been reservedly (is that a word?) excited about. I can't wait to meet new students and show them what ag ed and FFA have to offer...but that meant I had to break the news to my students first.


We had our banquet Friday, and I felt like that would not be an appropriate day to discuss it. The banquet went well with almost all of our RSVPs attending, including representatives from TriGreen Equipment who drove all the way from Alabama to present their $2,000 National FFA Scholarship to one my seniors.


After it was over, a very exhausted Vet Science team and I drove 3 hours west to a hotel to prepare for our first Vet Science contest the next morning. And ya know what? They won the state contest! The elation they felt was rewarding to witness. You know you've got some FFA leaders on your hands when they kept saying, "We met our goal, we met our goal!" instead of, "We won, we won!"

 


I woke up this morning at 4am feeling nervous and sad. I had dreams of all of my former and current students standing in my shop, questioning me and asking why I had to leave. There's no doubt about it... I expected the worse this morning. With a few tears I shared the news with my officer team. They nodded and showed signs of understanding when I explained that what I need to do for myself as a professional does not change the fact that I will always be someone in their life that cares about them and will be there to help them with anything. The worst was over and even though they had lots of questions, they showed me what it is to pick yourself up by the bootstraps and carry on.


The support and understanding from my students and colleagues has helped me grow as a professional and show me that change and flexibility is an inherent part of our jobs as teachers. Instead of fearing change, I'm now looking forward to the excitement of a new challenge, armed with the experience and wonderful memories I have of my time at Page High School. There are too many amazing students and wonderful memories to try to list them all.


And now it's time to carry on, getting the classroom and shop ready for a new advisor and jumping feet first into my new position, including the most exciting news ... I'll have an animal lab! I look forward to sharing that and more highlights from the next part of this wonderful journey as an agriculture teacher.


Until then, I encourage you to carry on through any difficult decisions or tasks you're facing. Carrying on will always lead you to "the glorious sunlight of brotherhood and cooperation."


Things are wild here in the ECVTS ag science program! The plants we are selling are growing almost out of control, which is a good thing since the sale is next week. The students are also acting a bit wild from not having had a day off since March, which is a not so good thing. To help them release their excess energy and stop acting like wild animals, we've spent the last few weeks visting some places where we were able to interact with some real animals!

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The students were acting like a pack of these!

 

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They needed a field trip to get them back on target.

 

Being that our school is in a very urban area, we don't have any farms or places where students can be around animals other than their pets. This makes field trips to places with animals very popular! 2 weeks ago we headed down to my alma mater, good old Rutgers, to learn more about the many different ag science majors they have there. Two of my favorite deans from my time there gave us a personal tour of campus and the farm manager let the students get up close and personal with many of the animals on the farm. We also got to eat lunch at the dining hall with all the real college students, and had a Q&A about any and all things related to applications, admissions, classes, and scholarships. The students had a blast, and hopefully they will follow in my footsteps and become future RU students!

 

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Cows are a-moo-sing!

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Past and future (hopefully) Rutgers students!


Today, we headed off to the Turtleback Zoo, which is located in the same county as our school. The weather was rainy, but we went anyway, and literally had the zoo entirely to ourselves! We learned about different careers at the zoo and had Q&As with several different zoo staff and zoo keepers. We also got to watch the keepers work with red pandas and sea lions, made animal enrichment objects, got to pet stingrays and sharks, and even got to interact with an armadillo! The weather might have been dreary, but we had a great time!

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Making animal enrichment objects

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Petting sharks!

 

The next few weeks are bound to be crazy! Hopefully our time spent hanging out with real animals will make the students act less like wild animals, and more like the responsible young adults they will need to be to make the FFA Plant Sale and State Convention a success. A day in the life of an ag teacher is certainly never boring! Look for s'Morey soon!

 

-TM

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