Bryan High's Urban Ag Academy ties Nebraska's past to its future

Posted at 7:13 PM, Oct 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-28 09:21:54-04

Getting their hands dirty is a requirement for these students at Bryan High School.

They're in the Urban Ag Academy.

The words "farming, urban and teens" normally don't go together in a sequence.               

So, Bryan High tried to tie Nebraska past to its future.

“In Omaha, having that connection back to traditional agriculture, traditional Nebraska type of economy is a good thing,” said Matt Pierson, a social studies teacher for the academy.

Especially, when it comes to jobs because so many jobs in Nebraska are related to agriculture either directly or indirectly, he added.

A study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2012 found 25 percent of jobs in the Cornhusker State are related to agriculture.

“We get a lot of hands on. So, we get to take care of the chickens. We get to plant things and watch them grow,” said Andrea Gonzalez, a senior whose been in the academy for the last three years.

Students are accepted into the academy as sophomores and stay until graduation. From there, the curriculum is ag-related - meaning all core classes like English, science and history focus on the industry.

Mary Miller, a curriculum specialist and academy career coordinator, tells KMTV that some of the students have never seen what a grain bin looks like.

“They've never seen a cow in person before so it's quite an eye-opening experience for these students,” she said.

The Howard G. Buffet Foundation offered a grant to jumpstart the academy. It now actually turns students away -about 40-percent of all those who apply.

Look around and you'll see plenty of girls getting in on what's seen as a male-dominated industry.

This year, there's also something new for students: An AgroBox designed by start-up company Rubicon Agriculture.

It lets students control the lighting, Irrigation, temperature, humidity and more.

School officials hope these hands-on lessons can ultimately help grow the agriculture labor force in Nebraska.

For more information on the program, click here.