Many times agriculture teachers struggle with the financial challenge of teaching in a small community. It can be hard to find resources to expand a program, making growth seem at times like an unachievable goal. For Ron Bray, this has never seemed to be an issue. Over the past 23 years he has taught agriculture at Johnson County High School and has brought the community of Wrightsville, Ga. together to develop a phenomenal agriculture program with his management of the Johnson County Young Farmers Program. Currently, Bray teaches two classes at Johnson County High School and spends the rest of his time overseeing the Young Farmers Program.
Bray's Young Farmers program consists of community members ranging from recent high school graduates to local business leaders. Because of the audience, meetings are held during the week, but after working and school hours. Bray's goal at these meetings is to educate the community about new advances in the agricultural industry. "The curriculum I have developed for the Young Farmers group is very diversified. The classes we conduct each year are a reflection of a survey that indicates needs and interests of the members," said Bray.
By taking such care to see that his program meets the needs of his community, Bray averages between 60 to 75 members at each of his meetings. Johnson County also ranks as one of the largest and most successful Young Farmer chapters in the state of Georgia, having won many different awards and distinctions.
The Johnson County Young Farmers program educates its members and advocates for agriculture through the program's many community service efforts. The members have built picnic tables, dugouts, restrooms, and shelters for the Johnson County Recreation Department and pole barns for the Johnson County Country Club and the Johnson County School System. They have also volunteered their time to construct 56 additional pole barns for numerous members of the community, who supply the materials and lunch for the members.
"The Young Farmer officers and members are all dedicated to serving the citizens of Johnson County," said Bray.
In 2006, Bray's Young Farmers chapter was asked by the Johnson County Schools Superintendent to design and develop an agricultural center that adjoins the high school. With the help of the local SPLOST funding (a local 1% sales tax collection) of $150,000 and state ag livestock grants totaling $75,000, along with the $30,000 the members raised themselves, the Young Farmers constructed the center, equipped with a classroom, office, kitchen, restrooms, and a computer lab. The facility is used to house, show and sell livestock for 4-H and FFA members. The members also built a 40 foot by 100 foot livestock penning system, trailer shed, and weigh-in area.
More than 148 businesses and individuals provide financial support for the Johnson County Young Farmers Association. This support has allowed for over $800,000 already awarded to local youth who participate in livestock shows. Only with strong leadership and determination can an organization like Johnson County Young Farmers make such a profound impact on people, businesses, and a community. Bray has devoted his career to developing and maintaining the positive relationship between the Young Farmers Association and the community of Wrightsville, Ga. His lasting impression is sure to stay with the Johnson County Young Farmers Association and the community it serves for many years to come.
Follow this link for a quick slideshow of the Johnson County Young Farmers Program! Ron Bray Outstanding Postsecondary/Adult Program Award - a set on Flickr
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