CALDWELL, Idaho — After a five-decade hiatus, Caldwell High School has an agriculture program again.
Caldwell, Idaho’s sixth largest city, is located in Canyon County, one of the state’s smallest counties in size but in the top five when it comes to farm cash receipts.
But CHS has not had an ag program since the Caldwell School District was split in the 1960s.
Ag industry leaders welcomed the news and offered to support the program and help it grow.
“I think it’s great that they’ve got the program going again. If they need it, I’ll be glad to help in any way I can,” said Darrell Bolz, a retired legislator and former University of Idaho agricultural extension agent who is involved with several farm-related groups.
Bolz is among a handful of ag industry members who showed up for an Oct. 3 advisory committee meeting at the school hosted by the program’s instructor, Kaycee Scherger.
All of them offered to assist the program.
The idea to re-start the program started when Shalene French took over as CSD superintendent last year.
French, whose father is a cattle rancher in East Idaho, said she couldn’t believe the school didn’t have an ag program.
“When I realized Caldwell didn’t have one, I ... was surprised,” she said. “Why wouldn’t we? This is one of the main farming counties in Idaho.”
Caldwell farmer Sid Freeman helped French get the program started.
“It’s fantastic that Caldwell School District has re-established its ag education program,” said Freeman, the National FFA Alumni Council vice president for the western region of the U.S.
He said an ag program is not only for rural kids who are more likely to understand agriculture.
“It’s also for the city kids who don’t know anything about agriculture and where their food comes from,” Freeman said. “They need to know. It will give them an awareness of what’s driving the economy right there in their own back yard.”
Scherger, who was raised on a cattle ranch in Wyoming, moved to Idaho this summer to oversee the school’s ag program and started teaching introductory classes in August.
“I’m very excited about this program and I have some students who are very excited about it,” she said.
The program has almost 200 students and about 15 are active in FFA.
Scherger said the school expects to get its FFA charter next spring and she hopes to have a greenhouse next semester. She is the program’s lone teacher right now but she plans to significantly expand the program.
“We’re going to have a big FFA chapter once we get it going,” she said.
French said there is a lot of industry support for the program.
“I do think it’s going to take off,” she said.
Scherger said she’s looking for guidance and ideas from local farmers and ag-related businesses. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.