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Agriscience Takes Students to Root of Food Production

Few of us give second thought to what went into producing the food we buy at the grocery store, yet our very existence is completely dependent on the production of plants and animals. Students at Bossier Parish School for Technology and Innovative Learning (BPSTIL) are now paying closer attention, though, as they get their hands dirty and gain firsthand knowledge about what farm to table really means. 

Agriscience I was offered for the first time during the spring semester and interest in it next school year is quickly growing, much like the summer squash sprouting up in raised planters on campus. Katelin Breaux is heading up the Ag program.

“Our plan is to line the entire sidewalk with these raised beds,” Breaux commented as her students checked on the progress of their bounty. “Next year I want to germinate a bunch of seeds and send plants home with kids so they can give back.” 

Each day is different in Agriscience. While some students learn about aquaponics, hydroponics and horticulture, others are assigned to animal husbandry duties, such as tending to the flock of chickens being raised on site, checking for eggs and cleaning the coop. Before the school year ended, they also learned how to process broilers, which Derrick Hayes surprisingly enjoyed. 

“I loved it!” exclaimed the Bossier High student who had never been around chickens before.

A lot of cross-curricular collaboration goes on with the Agriscience program. Agriscience students learned how to use basic hand and power tools and equipment safety; Carpentry, Welding and Collision Repair designed, built and welded the raised beds for planting; Graphic Arts designed labels for egg cartons; and Culinary Arts helped prep and cook the poultry. They have even applied for a butchering license so they can process and sell chickens, the hope being to eventually have a farmers market and incorporate lessons in entrepreneurship. 

And just as farmers do not take the summer off, neither is the Agriscience program. Bossier Schools is partnering with Cypress-Black Bayou Park where students are working to bring new life to the recreation area. Once finished, there will be additional animal enclosures, greenhouses and aquaculture. 

Robert Berry, Executive Director of the Cypress-Black Bayou Park and Recreation Area, said it is a winning endeavor for all of Bossier Parish. 

“During these troubling times of the economy and shortages of food supplies, I think it’s very important for all of us, especially our younger group, to understand the importance of raising crops and animals to supply our source of survival for our families,” Berry said. “Unfortunately, I think shortages and increased costs are only going to get higher, so hopefully we can teach these young men and ladies how to survive on their own.”  

Breaux is also excited about opening the barn as a petting zoo with small and medium-sized animals. 

“The plan this summer is to get it back up and running so we can welcome students in the fall and offer field trips to 4-H groups and schools, then expand on that,” she said. The Nature Center will also be used as an extension of the Agriscience classroom at BPSTIL, where students will visit regularly. 

Breaux anticipates eventually offering classes up to Agriscience IV, enabling students to have more in-depth experiences in aquaponics, gardening and animal husbandry, both at BPSTIL and Cypress.  

“We’re all learning,” Breaux said with a smile.