High school ag program expands
Fairmont High School has added a second ag teacher this year to accommodate the growing number of students interested in agriculture.
Cassandra Brown is originally from Auburn, Iowa where she grew up on a swine and row crop farm.
“My dad lived on the farm his entire life and raised my brother and I on the farm with my mom. Agriculture has always been an important part of who we are,” she said.
She joined FFA in high school and shared that the ag teacher she had in high school had also been her father’s ag teacher.
“It was a good connection. I found where I fit and where I could do the contests and the speaking events. It became my thing,” Brown said.
After graduating high school she served the Iowa FFA association as a state officer and through that she was exposed to the classroom and saw the different things ag teachers were doing in their classrooms.
“That truly got my attention and I realized I could keep impacting those in ag in a classroom,” Brown said.
She attended Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa and graduated with a degree in agricultural education and life sciences in 2009.
After graduating she took a job as an ag teacher in Indianola, Iowa. There she was also the FFA advisor. She shared what got her interested in Fairmont.
“My husband is from Graettinger, which is just over the border. We wanted to be closer to home so we looked at opportunities that were closer to family,” she said.
Her husband is a veterinarian and works at the Fairmont Vet Clinic. Brown said he started in April and she came later after she finished up the school year at her previous school. The couple live on a farm across the border.
As for the need to add a second ag teacher at the high school, Fairmont High School co-principal, Alex Schmidt, said they’ve seen the number of students in ag classes increase and they also wanted to give all junior high students the opportunity to take an agriculture class and they needed a second teacher to make it happen.
This year, each 7th and 8th grader will take a semester of ag and for students in grades 9-12, ag is an elective. Ag classes offered include landscaping, animal science and exploring agriculture.
“Being an agriculture community, we wanted all students to get more exposure. A lot of kids hear agriculture and they think of hog barns, corn fields or soy beans. We’re trying to expand their knowledge of what agriculture is,” Schmidt explained.
He said 7th and 8th graders all take classes in Family and Consumer Science, Art, STEM and technology in order to get exposed to as much as they can at a young age.
Brown will teach all of the 8th graders and some high school classes while Fairmont’s other ag teacher, Katie Elder, will teach all of the 7th graders and some high school classes. They will both serve as FFA advisors.
Brown stressed the importance of teaching ag classes to the younger students.
“We all eat and we all have clothes and fuel in our cars. It (Ag) truly does affect everyone and it’s a matter of exposing and educating those around us.”
Brown is looking forward to teaching in person this school year. She said it was especially hard during the pandemic for teachers in vocational departments.
“Being in an ag department, or woodshop, it’s very hands-on. That made it hard to teach from a distance because we have labs and a welder that had to be in hands or growing flowers in a greenhouse and that wasn’t an option during Covid,” she explained.
She said it challenged her type of teachers to come up with new ways to get that information out, but ultimately she thinks Covid helped them grow as educators.
Brown is passionate not only about agriculture, but community, and looks forward to growing Fairmont’s FFA program.
“Living to serve is a line in the FFA motto. I want students to know what it’s like to serve others and make an impact on the community,” she said.