Thornapple Kellogg — When a group of freshmen from Thornapple Kellogg High School went to a district championship for the Future Farmers of America in Calhoun County this year, they were the first group of TK students to do so since their school’s agricultural science program closed in 1966.
It’s a triumph, then, that freshman Adalyn Cook took home a first-place award in the extemporaneous speaking category, while her classmate, Annabelle Pennington, earned second place in the Greenhand Public Speaking contest. The girls are founding members of the FFA chapter at their high school and among the first students to take an agricultural science course there since its revival in fall 2022.
‘It’s not just agriculture, it’s not just farming. … Even if you like marketing (or) if you like finance, there’s jobs for you in it.’— Amanda Kozlowski, agricultural biology teacher
Agricultural biology teacher Amanda Kozlowski is also the FFA advisor and said that the call for an ag science program at TKHS has been building momentum for several years.
“Parents have been asking for these classes. It’s something that they’ve pushed for a long time, so I think it was just the right people in the administration to support it,” she said.
Students were eager to take Kozlowski’s ag bio course — enough for three sections to accommodate the 60 students who registered for the class. In future years, TKHS will add additional classes to the program, including Animal Science in fall 2023.
Not Just Agriculture
Adalyn was excited to see the ag science program revived because she has been riding horses since she was a little girl, but wants future students to know that you don’t have to be interested in farming to take the classes.
“I think one of the biggest misconceptions of it is that it’s just for agriculturally-minded kids. Obviously agriculture is a part of it, but it teaches great leadership and a bunch of things not just related to agriculture,” she said.
Kozlowski said that a variety of students chose to take the class, in part because agricultural science covers a variety of topics.
“It’s not just agriculture, it’s not just farming. You’re looking at genetics, you’re looking at chemistry, you’re looking at mechanics, natural resources and ecology,” she said. “Even if you like marketing (or) if you like finance, there’s jobs for you in it.”
This year, Adalyn’s favorite part of her ag bio class was raising chickens in the fall for the FFA’s Broiler Contest. When asked if she got attached to the birds, she just laughed.
She and her classmates had to bring coolers along with the birds to the contest, which might explain why.