Tift County Schools is a leader in farm-to-school efforts in Georgia with a remarkable team and programming throughout the district. At the Golden Radish Awards hosted by Georgia Organics, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, and Georgia Departments of Education, Agriculture and Public Health on October 30, 2017, Tift County Schools was awarded platinum level status, the top tier award level, and they were recognized as the Outstanding School District of the Year in farm-to-school efforts.
One school leading the way in farm-to-school efforts among middle schools is J.T. Reddick Middle School in Tift County. Since 2015, students at J.T. Reddick have had an opportunity to participate in a nine-week rotation in agricultural education, taught by Jimmy Cargle. The Agricultural Education Program aims to include multiple hands-on experiences to encourage students to gain interest in planting, maintaining, and harvesting crops.
The school utilizes five raised garden beds to teach students about planting, maintaining, and harvesting foods such as collard greens, cabbage, strawberries and broccoli. Students are also able to learn how to preserve produce by canning vegetables using the school system’s state-of-the-art canning plant. This past year, the sixth grade Agricultural Education students canned their own jars of green beans to take home to their families. This activity tied into the taste tests that the Tift County School Nutrition Department conducted with the fresh green beans, and a health and wellness class connecting healthy eating to growing and processing foods at home.
“Many students come in to the Agriculture Education class at the beginning of the nine-week period with skeptical attitudes,” said Cargle. “But by the end, they all want to stay in the class because of the interesting subjects and hands-on work they experience.”
Student Susie Peters is no exception.
“I cannot lie, I thought Ag would be boring,” said Peters. “But I was wrong. You lit a spark that has caught fire.”
The Agricultural Education classes also include activities like hatching chicks, rabbit care in the classroom, assembling Christmas wreaths, studying livestock and seasonal foods, and designing flower bud vases. Students may also take part in National Future Farmers of America (FFA) activities at Tift Schools, such as floriculture contests, livestock judging, tree identification, nursery and landscape contests, floral design contests and wildlife management contests. These FFA events reinforce the Agricultural Education topics that students learn in class, and encourage many to continue in agriculture in the future.
To learn more about J.T. Reddick Middle School of Tift County, please visit: http://reddick.tiftschools.com/
To learn more about the Golden Radish Awards hosted by Georgia Organics, please visit: https://georgiaorganics.org/2017/10/75-georgia-school-districts-win-golden-radish-awards-farm-school-accomplishments/