ANGOLA - The Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Carrier Educational Center in Angola will open the doors on a new and very unique agriculture class this September. Designed to meet the needs of school districts, local farmers and greenhouses to not only produce competent workers, the course will also offer a head start to those seeking post-secondary education in one of the many agriculture universities in the country.
Aquaculture is the fastest growing facet of agriculture and produces over a billion dollars in sales in the U.S. alone, but this new class will also encompass all of the traditional agriculture skills such as welding, crop science, heavy equipment operation and maintenance, and many others.
"Teaching agriculture in the western New York winter months obviously creates challenges," said Brandon Wojcik, principal of the Carrier Center. "We needed to provide a facility that would make this possible, and I immediately thought of a popular enrichment project I did as a science teacher in the Springville Central School District with two colleagues, Joe Karb, a social studies teacher, and Mike Stefan, a technology teacher and well known farmer."
That project, also an aquaculture endeavor, involved a small 500-gallon fish farm whose nutrient-rich water fed two larger sections of plants. This new program at the Carrier Center will incorporate a similar design but on a much larger scale to fully utilize the space available at the building and accommodate a large number of students.
"We are basically taking the Springville project and super-sizing it," said Wojcik. "We have 3,000 square feet of space incorporating six, 1,100 gallon tanks. The indoor farm will feed hundreds of plants with the nutrient rich waste of thousands of fish, so now we can teach the principles of agriculture indoors during the coldest months."
The uniqueness of the farm also lends itself to more than just agriculture. In an effort to service a wider range of high school students, BOCES will be offering additional one-year classes and distance learning opportunities within the normal two-year Agriscience course. This program, available to seniors only, will focus on agriculture, hatchery and fisheries management, fish husbandry and resource management for Regents students having room in their schedule and moving on to colleges like SUNY Cobleskill and Morrisville or Cornell University which offer similar fields of study.
Wojcik adds that he has been in contact with many colleges and universities in an effort to get students credit, or at least prepare them for classes of this nature at the post-secondary level.
"Since I have put this idea out there, I have been inundated with e-mails and phone calls from colleges and businesses from Connecticut to Alabama, including the United States Department of Agriculture, to discuss partnerships, employment and funding opportunities."
The program is currently accepting enrollment. For more information concerning the Agriscience class, please call the Carrier Educational Center at 549-4454.
For more about Erie 2 BOCES, visit www.e2ccb.org.