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Ag education program returns to Moorhead High after four-decade drought

Four decades after it was dropped, ag education has returned, this time to the new Moorhead High School Career Academy.

Moorhead High School Career Academy.jpg
The Moorhead High School Career Academy on Thursday, March 25, 2022.
Chris Flynn / The Forum
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MOORHEAD — Moorhead High School dropped its agriculture education program in the early 1980s.

Four decades later, ag education has returned, this time to the new Moorhead High School Career Academy.

Moorhead's newly revived ag education program is being phased in via a three-year process, with the first classes having started last fall under the career academy's "Farm to Table" career pathway.

Gabe Lassila, currently the program's only instructor, said about 50 students signed up for his introduction to ag course and about 60 signed up for his ag construction class.

Next year, the school expects to add three additional courses — plant and animal science; energy and natural resources; and advanced ag construction, according to Lassila.

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As for who is signing up, Lassila said it includes some rural students and some students who live in the city and probably don't know much about agriculture, but nonetheless thought the idea was interesting enough to take a course.

Lassila said it's his understanding that the original ag education program was dropped 40 years ago after the school district had issues finding a steady teacher to teach the courses.

"Then, it just died out," he said, adding that the idea to bring the ag education program back arose during the building of the career academy.

The principal and others in charge said, "Why do we not offer ag courses in a town that is so agriculture based?" Lassila said.

Plans call for eventually giving students opportunities for hands-on learning through a supervised agricultural experience that will include things like internships and ag science projects.

Another goal is the revival of an FFA club, the aim of which is to mentor students in opportunities for personal growth, leadership and career success.

Among those helping Moorhead realize its goals for ag education is Steve Olson, who was involved in Moorhead High's ag education program as a high school senior in 1981, the last year the program was offered.

After high school and college, Olson embarked upon a long career in agriculture that has included holding high level positions in a number of Minnesota organizations, including 18 years as executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association.

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Olson also volunteers with a number of ag organizations, including the Minnesota and national alumni councils of the FFA.

He said it is as a volunteer that he is helping guide the revival of the ag education program in Moorhead, and Olson added that what is happening in Moorhead is part of a larger trend in Minnesota, where more ag education programs are becoming established, or growing in size.

ag education programs.jpg
Agriculture, food, and natural resources education programs are growing in Minnesota.
Source: Minnesota Association of Agricultural Educators.

"We've got schools that are adding additional teachers, but we've also got schools adding the program, because there's been an awareness that not every student is interested in going to a four-year college; that there are a lot of opportunities in career and technical education," Olson said.

He said he has met with Moorhead officials to help them make connections when it comes to things like finding classroom speakers and fundraising.

"Ultimately, the goal is to let the community know that this program is out there and that it needs some support," said Olson, who is helping develop an ag education alumni and friends support group.

He said anyone interested in more information may phone him at (651) 270-3439, or email him at Steve@SteveOlsonConsulting.com.

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE EDUCATIONMOORHEAD AREA PUBLIC SCHOOLSMOORHEAD HIGH SCHOOL
I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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