Juniors and seniors at Cape Fear High School in Fayetteville are getting a head start on their careers, thanks to the school’s innovative Agriscience Academy. Students with an interest in agriculture careers can take college-level classes during their normal school day and receive both high school and college credits.
“We have done classes with Fayetteville Technical Community College and Sampson Community College,” says Allen West, director of Cape Fear High School’s Academy of Agriculture and Natural Sciences. “There are also discussions about partnering with other colleges in the near future.”
Cape Fear high School’s Agriscience Academy
Graduates of Cape Fear High School’s Agriscience Academy finish ready to join the workforce with certifications in areas such as beef and pork quality assurance and hunter safety, or they can enter college with credits already under their belts.
“Earning college credits during high school is invaluable. This program saves money and time, allowing young adults to focus on an agriculture career one to two years earlier,” says Dr. Carol Woodlief, veterinary medical officer for livestock health programs at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “Industry partners often see these young adults as strong-willed and enthusiastic employees, willing to work hard and focus.”
Not only do students benefit from college credits, they also make connections with professionals in the agriculture industry.
“The academy sets standard academic and work-based learning requirements that must be met, including work experience, community service hours and a variety of agriculture courses,” West says. “Many students begin their agriculture classes with very little knowledge about agriculture or the careers out there. Many find a love for agriculture once they learn about the vast opportunities the industry offers.”
The academy has four teachers who cover animal science, environmental science, horticulture and agricultural engineering. Students in the animal science classes have opportunities to work with animals in an off-campus laboratory that has cows, horses and pigs.
“Our first objective is to expose students to agriculture and hopefully inspire them to consider agriculture as a career,” West says.
Filling a Need
The opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time, considering there is a huge demand for college graduates with a degree in agricultural programs. And contrary to popular belief, those careers aren’t limited to farmers and ranchers – the agriculture industry includes everything from food scientists and hydrologists to veterinarians and drone technologists.
“Agriculture careers are essential for everyone. Farmers and producers provide food and horticulture products for the world,” Woodlief says. “The small ‘backyard’ farmers are a dying breed. As that generation has aged, not as many of their children have followed in their footsteps.
It is imperative that we encourage our young adults and children to continue the multiple agriculture professions to help us all eat, drink and be merry in our beautiful landscaped oasis we call home.”
Kevin Dunning graduated from Cape Fear High School in 2017 and was heavily involved in the agriculture program, serving on the school’s land judging, horticulture, agronomy and envirothon teams. He is now a freshman at NC State.
“I owe it to the agriculture program at Cape Fear for helping me acquire my first job as a fieldworker for an agricultural research company known as Agritechnologies,” Dunning says. “My horticulture teacher’s father owned the company and was looking for summer workers. My teacher recommended me because of my performance in class. The education I received through the agriculture program prepared me for that workplace environment – I was able to calculate application rates for fertilizers and pesticides, identify agricultural pests, and operate basic agriculture machinery and tools.”
In college, Dunning’s high school background is proving beneficial as well.
“It has made my first-semester classes extremely easy because most first-level agriculture courses in college are a reiteration of what I was taught in high school, so having an understanding of the topics already allows me to focus on more details I may have missed earlier,” Dunning says. “The agriculture program at Cape Fear also helped develop my communication skills through social gatherings and leadership opportunities. I’m an introvert, but the agriculture and FFA program pushed me to expand my horizons and fine-tune my people skills.”