School may be out for the summer, but students who attend Arlington ISD’s Agriculture Science Center have their hands full year-round. And even without classes, every day is still busy. That’s because they have steers, lambs, goats, chickens, heifers, rabbits and more to take care of. Dedicated to the health and cleanliness of all the animals housed at the Ag Center, some students start their day at 6:30 a.m. and don’t conclude their day until 9:00 p.m.!
The Agriculture Science Center opened in October 2017 to serve high school students with an interest in animals and agriculture. Funded by the 2014 Bond, the facility makes ag education and raising an animal accessible to all high school students. Prior to 2017, ag students had to find their own accommodations for animals, which could be expensive and out of reach for many. Now that the Ag Center is open, students have a free place to house their animals.
The process of raising an animal is an education in itself. It starts when a student purchases the animal. They then raise and train the animal as their own at the Ag Center, and then finally they auction the animal off for consumption to the highest bidder.
How do students pay for this?
Purchasing an animal can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. To procure an animal most students try to attain a scholarship through competing in stock shows. Students compete in stock shows in Houston, Fort Worth, San Antonio and San Angelo in what is called a “calf scramble.” This is where a group of students chase around a group of calves in a show arena and try to put a halter around the calf and drag it to the middle of the arena. If the student is successful, they win a scholarship that can total up to $1,500 and must go toward the animal. This helps with purchasing supplements, feed, bedding, hair care, etc. If a market animal does well at show they can be auctioned off and the student can earn up to $200,000. It seems simple, but the time and dedication the student gives are what determine the animal’s success.
Future Farmers of America
Kyle Durr, an Arlington ISD alumnus and now a teacher at the Ag Center, has seen the program grow from when he was a student attending Arlington High School.
“As a student, there wasn’t a space to keep the animals like there is now.”
Durr jokingly admits he’s a little jealous of the progress of the program and the facility and wishes he had it as a student. But he is also proud of how far it has come. A perk to his position is that Durr gets to teach amazing students like Sophee Dever, president of the Arlington FFA (Future Farmers of America) and Ryan Smith, FFA secretary.
Dever and Smith explained that the Ag Center has a three-circle model. The FFA is an organization that helps promotes agriculture education and teaches leadership. Portion two of the model is the classroom curriculum (vet med, advanced animal science, etc.) Finally, there is the SAE (Supervised Agriculture Experience), which helps students build on their knowledge from the classrooms on topics such as raising livestock like cattle to even testing their skills in horticulture.
Dever and Smith, who are now seniors at Arlington High, have been a part of the program since they were freshmen. Dever, who has two lambs at the facility (Bullseye and Slinky), plans to attend Texas Tech to study wildlife. Smith, who has about 50 breeding rabbits at his farm at home, plans to attend Texas A&M to study animal science or veterinary science. For students like Dever, Smith and Martin High School junior Tyler Hausenfluke, the Ag Center and being in the FFA is awesome because of friends, learning the materials and cultivating leadership qualities.
To follow the students’ progress and the animals’ journeys at the Agriculture Science Center click here for more information. You can also follow on Twitter, like their Facebook page, and follow on Instagram. If the FFA is an area of interest for you and you currently are not a student inside Arlington ISD do not worry! You can transfer to Arlington ISD starting July 17 to join in on all the fun.