KALISPELL - Agriculture is Montana’s number one industry and the Agriculture Education Center in Kalispell gives area high school kids hands-on experience in the field.
This is just one aspect of the Agricultural Education program which has been a staple in Career Technical Education classes in the Flathead since the early 1900’s teaching students everything about plants, animals, mechanics, construction and welding.
“The Ag industry is hungry for you know, the next generation of leaders and workers and managers and business people all the way up and down. And so when we look at agriculture, it's easy to think, or forget maybe, that agriculture does not end with farming that's actually where it begins. And so when we talk about agriculture, we're talking about more than 300 different career titles,” said Ag Education teacher Justin Heupel.
Students at the Ag Center take normal classes at Glacier High School and Flathead High School and continue their real-life education at the center. It provides a place for students to explore and be themselves, doing what they love.
“It's really helped me kind of open up and become a better person, a better leader, showing those qualities and really understanding the agricultural field and like what careers and so many opportunities there are,” said Ag Ed Center student Jordyn Greene.
Sophomores grow flowers every year to sell to the community learning exactly what it takes to grow a product good enough to sell.
“You have to literally look at every detail every quality because you want to do your best. You want to make a profit off of what you're giving to your consumers and it's just the best way of learning like that diligence and what you're doing,” said Greene.
Learning in this hands-on environment creates a connection to the real world.
“We really focus on applying academic education to a real-world situation. And so that question of 'why do I need to know this or where am I going to use that in the real world?' And you know, sometimes we can, we can be that key that unlocks that scenario,” said Heupel.
While agriculture may not be everyone's future, the Ag Center allows students to try their hand in the industry.
“It's okay to expand your knowledge and like some people might come here and might not like it, and might not do it next year. That's okay, but you know, I kind of like like to push it and be like, hey, like this is a good program," said Greene. "You get to learn and you get to experience like a ton of things. And with FFA connected here, it just joins everybody together and it's just like a big family."