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Learning to do

Cumberland Co. High School’s new livestock barn helps teachers offer agriculture education at unprecedented levels
Story and photos by: Chris Villines 12/31/2018


A group of Cumberland County High School FFA officers proudly gather in front of the school’s new livestock barn during a grand opening celebration held Nov. 13. Bottom row, from left, are Courtney Robinson, Alex Colton, Alex Woody, Sheridan Roberts, and Samantha Essex. Top row, from left, are Katelyn Carpenter, Caroline Beasley, Jacob DeBord, C.J. Burgess, Gabe Cook, and Hannah Black.
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There are some 400 of the 1,000 students enrolled at Cumberland County High School (CCHS) taking agriculture education classes. The school’s FFA program boasts more than 200 members.

Impressive numbers for certain. But it’s another figure that has people connected to the Crossville campus’s ag program excited these days: 45 feet by 45 feet.

These are the dimensions of the school’s new livestock barn, which was officially dedicated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house on Nov. 13 attended by CCHS students, parents, teachers, and administration, as well as Cumberland County Board of Education members, local government officials, and representatives from Cumberland Farmers Cooperative, Tennessee Farmers Cooperative, Tennessee FFA, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.

“As a former student and principal of this high school, I am eternally grateful that we are able to open this facility,” said Janet Graham, superintendent of Cumberland County Schools. “It will greatly enhance agriculture education for our students, and many of them will go on to use what they learned in these classes in their careers.”

The hands-on learning associated with the barn actually began with its construction. All of the work, which started in fall 2017, was completed by students in Andrew Miller’s construction class with supplies funded by the county’s Board of Education and County Commission. Equipment and supplies for the barn will be purchased from Cumberland Farmers Co-op.

“This is exciting for me because I didn’t grow up on a farm,” said Sheridan Roberts, a junior who serves as CCHS FFA’s vice president. “With the barn, I’ll be able to experience hands-on learning with the livestock and transfer what I’ve read in textbooks to real life.

“When an animal is right in front of you, and you can touch it, that makes a big difference in your learning experience.”

“Instead of just talking about cows in the classroom, now we can go out and look at one and teach the kids how to take care of the animal,” explained Jason Atkinson, who leads the school’s agriculture program along with fellow teachers Terra Davis and Danny Wilson. “That’s huge to someone who didn’t grow up on a farm and has only seen a cow in a book or on TV.”

The three teachers agree that the new livestock barn serves as the perfect complement to the program’s shop and greenhouse, where 650 ferns, 1,950 poinsettias, and 4,350 geraniums are grown and sold annually. CCHS offers three ag education pathways: plant science, animal science, and agriculture mechanics. The barn will be used for hands-on labs in animal science and agriscience classes.

Jim Blalock, a 24-year Cumberland County School Board member who transitioned to being a county commissioner this past September, has been an advocate of the project from the beginning.

“Agricultural and vocational education is where we need the most workers to keep things going,” said Blalock, a 1967 CCHS graduate who lives on his family’s farm in neighboring Pleasant Hill. “Not everybody plays sports, not everybody goes to college, but everybody needs to learn a trade. With this facility, these young people have an opportunity to learn all kinds of things to help them in every walk of life.”

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