Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, April 16, 2001

Hoheisel is featured in Agri News over Regional Ag/Science Center

Reprinted with permission from AgriNews

By Carol Stender

Riley Hoheisel is a former Pierz-area farm boy, whose thoughts haven't strayed far from agriculture.

Hoheisel, superintendent at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, is one of several school staff members and community leaders supporting a five-year vision for the school's ag curriculum.

The vision includes a farm and regional ag/science center.

The program would offer high school and college students an opportunity to explore ag career possibilities.

"The Rural Agricultural Science Education Center would offer a hands-on ag education for all students enrolling in the program," said Colette Thorson, an area farmer who is the project's program developer.

The idea was generated by ag instructor Jim Weninger and Future Farmers of America (FFA) alumni.

"We have an active FFA and FFA alumni, who have been recommending that we expand our (ag) program," Hoheisel said. "All of our programs ask for additional personnel and you try to do the best you can with the dollars you have. We looked at a possible expansion through an ag farm."

Brainerd is the only Minnesota school district with an ag farm, he said. It's located away from the school, with students missing at least seven minutes of their class period, as they are bussed to the farm.

The HLWW ag center committee, however, would like the farm on school grounds, so students would have easy access to facilities and labs.

The committee has already established links with the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council.

The council, which is starting its own ag charter school in the Twin Cities, is supportive of the plan, Hoheisel said.

Hoheisel envisions a cooperative relationship between the Twin Cities-based ag charter school and the HLWW program, including field trips to the HLWW site and a two-way television link-up for some courses.

Other area school districts are interested and support HLWW's plans, he said.

The ag farm vision received support from several area legislators and is seen as a center that could be used by Wright Technical Center students.

The committee has developed a five-year plan that includes curriculum development and facility and equipment needs. Weninger has received free time to work on the curriculum, which includes expanding course offerings to aquaponics, hydroponics, precision agriculture, floriculture and more.

"There really isn't anything in this area," he said. "This is excellent farm country. About 25 to 30 percent of the Minnesota economy is based on agriculture. That's strong rationale that the state needs a support system."

In its first year, the ag center would implement courses to employ a second full-time ag teacher.

The plan allows for teaching by text and using outside businesses as resources, since there wouldn't be funds for facilities and equipment.

Courses include equine science, food science, greenhouse and orchard management, ag business communications, with a year-long independent study program.

Year three of the plan would bring in facilities and equipment, including plans for a greenhouse, orchard, research labs, computers, cropland, a larger and more efficient shop, and large and small animals studies. The fifth year would bring aquaculture, aquaponics and large engine semester courses on-line.

The center has received two grants - one for $11,000, from the Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning, and an $8,000 grant, from the Central Minnesota Initiative Foundation.

They are seeking additional funding from the Legislature.

Hoheisel and Thorson expect to testify before a legislative committee for state funding within the next two weeks.

The ag farm is part of HLWW's building project for a new school. If the building project is defeated, the ag curriculum expansion will still continue, Thorson said.


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