BY KAREN CAMPBELL
Weakley County Schools Communications Director
DRESDEN (March 7) – First, West Tennessee agriculture teachers selected the ag program at Dresden High School to represent the area at the Tennessee Association of Agriculture Educators (TAAE). Next, the DHS program was measured against middle and east Tennessee programs. And finally, at the TAAE mid-winter conference in Murfreesboro, Dresden was named the Outstanding Middle and Secondary Agriculture program of the year.
DHS will now compete against winners in this award category from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, and Virgin Islands at the NAAE Region V Summer Conference held at Orange Beach, Alabama on June 19-22. The winner declared from this round in June will be the NAAE Region V winner and will go to Las Vegas, Nevada this fall.
The Dresden program is led by Jason Kemp, Jonathan Holden and Jessica Browning. Kemp in his 19th year of teaching; Holden is in his 7th year; and Jessica Browning is completing her 1st year of teaching.
The DHS Agriculture Education program currently offers two programs of study and an agriculture elective course for agriculture students. Agriscience is the introduction to agriculture. DHS pathways are Agriculture Mechanics and Animal Science. The program’s 181 students represent 58 percent of schools’ population this school year. The Weakley County Schools Livestock Production Farm with its 65 acres adjacent to the school and 50 acres two miles away is a full functioning row crop, livestock and hay production program. The nine livestock and equipment buildings including a farrowing house, swine nursery, swine gestation barn, swine finishing floor, and livestock working facility provides ample opportunities for hands-on learning.
The honor is partially based on the partnerships of the high school programs. Dresden’s ag program boasts relationships with Weakley County CO-OP and the University of Tennessee at Martin on grain and crop production where plots are being planted by the Weakley County CO-OP, Nutrien Ag Solution, and Syngenta. UTM also partners with the school in pregnancy checking sows, gilts, heifers, and cows after artificial insemination to get accuracy rate and working with test flying drones. In 2018, the farm began a partnership with Tosh Farms, the state’s largest pork producer. Working with Tosh Farm’s veterinarian, a protocol for hands-on training similar to training provided for Tosh employees was established. Students are now trained to be able to go into the work force in a large swine operation and be able to artificially inseminate swine, care for newborn pigs, mix and grind feed, care for growing and finishing hogs in the same manner as employees at Tosh.
Community involvement is another aspect of the recognition. Among the activities that pushed the Dresden program to the forefront is the Dresden FFA’s leadership in a summer Fishing Tournament, 8th Grade Orientation, ongoing relationships with Dresden FFA Alumni, reading to elementary students, FFA Week, Ag Day Cookout, and marketing farm-raised products to the public through a store front market.
“Weakley County Schools has the privilege of being located in a rural area with a celebrated agricultural history,” said Weakley County Schools Director Randy Frazier. “Dresden High School’s ag program earning statewide recognition shows we are building on that history and committed to building an effective future workforce. I commend the teachers, administration and students for this achievement.”