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Johnson County High School agriculture program offers exceptional opportunities

Story by Rebecca Herman
Photos by Lacy Hilliard

In the 1983-1984 school year, a small group of Johnson County High School students traveled to Jackson, Tennessee to disassemble a greenhouse that was not being used. The goal was to bring the greenhouse back to Mountain City and reassemble it on campus in order to begin growing produce. Students were successful and in the 1984-1985 school year production started. Over the years there has been three installments of greenhouses and other programs began to grow as well. Today, students are able to experience growing and selling plants in the Greenhouse, working at the Aquaculture Center where they grow produce, plants, and fish, and participating in competitions through the Future Farmers of America (FFA).
The Johnson County High School agriculture programs are headed up by three exceptional men, who always put students first and who are passionate about the work that they are involved in. Thomas Boyd, Tracey Dugger, and Jerry Agan, along with two technicians, Serena Wiggins Aldridge and Angie Brown, work diligently each day to provide solid educational foundations as well as life changing experiences to students who otherwise may not be involved in any area focused class or club.
When first walking into the JCHS Greenhouse, one will see the beginning buds of new growth that in a couple of months will be ready to go in the ground. Boyd and his students have begun the process of growing hearty plants, broccoli and cauliflower, and will soon begin sowing the seeds for various tomatoes, herbs, cucumbers, flowers, etc. These plants will go on sale to the public around the second or third week of April; sales will continue through the month of June.
Continuing through the Greenhouse, one will find the tropics room. This room is filled with gorgeous, fully grown tropic plants, ferns, and flowers. Boyd uses many of these plants for cuttings to begin new plants that students will care for until ready to be sold. One of the most impressive plants in the tropics room is the lime tree. Boyd has harvested over 130 limes from this tree.
The last room in the Greenhouse is the hydroponics room. Here tomatoes and lettuce are grown year-round and sold to individuals and local restaurants. One may have a surreal moment when walking into the hydroponics room in the dead of winter to see large clusters of tomatoes and leafy green bundles of lettuce just waiting to be picked. Boyd discussed the innovative ways that people are growing crops and spoke about alternative energy, such as wind and solar. He said that he is currently teaching about these renewable energy options and even has a solar panel that he sets up to show students how the panels work, however this kind of power will not be available to JCHS for a while due to cost and the amount of space that current solar panels take up; Boyd has hopes that in the future the technology will be available to students.

To read the entire article, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.