Students present at career showcase

MEGAN E. BLOOM/Sun-Gazette Horticulture teacher Kristy Etzler teachers her 47 students for three years about horticulture, landscaping, floral design and much more.

Students and teachers at Williamsport Area High School presented its Future Farmers of America agriculture education program during a career success showcase on Oct. 13.

The high school provides a horticulture and landscaping track, which 47 students participate in through its career and technical education program, according to career and technology education director Randy Zangara.

Students presented their supervised agriculture projects, which required them to complete at least 120 hours of agriculture experience, according to horticulture teacher Kristy Etzler.

Through the three years of classes, she said students learn life skills and experience they can take to college or a job. They complete 720 hours of gardening, floral design, landscaping and more over those years.

The school has a greenhouse where they grow flowers which are sold to teachers or donated to hospice care, grow hydroponic lettuce and raise talapia, she said.

MEGAN E. BLOOM/Sun-Gazette Horticulture students learn floral design and create different arrangements which they sell to teachers or donate to hospice.

Horticulture student Gabriel Ramirez, 17, does pest management in the greenhouse for the school and did a presentation on it for his project.

He uses a microscope to view the development of eggs and identify insects such as aphids, thrips and spider mites, he said. The bugs come through the vents and doorways to the greenhouse.

“It’s better to know all the plants in order to know all the pests,” he said.

Ramirez dreams of becoming an entomologist.

Horticulture student Amanda Funk, 18, observed poinsettias for her project over a nine week period in the greenhouse. She monitored the growth, colors, height and leaves using different growth hormones.

Being a member of FFA, she said she learned that after high school she wants to become a horticulture teacher.

Horticulture student Kattie Rooker, 16, made venison jerky with her grandfather for her project, she said she has been doing that with him since she was a kid.

FFA has helped her be more confident with public speaking and consider attending college, she said.

Students can receive 12 credits to the Pennsylvania College of Technology who participate in the program.

Soon the students will have a chicken coop, built by the construction students, where they will raise chickens from eggs.

Members from the agriculture industry were also at the showcase who spoke to the students about the prospects for starting a career in that field.

In the next ten years as the baby boomers begin to retire there will be 75,000 new and replacement jobs available in the agriculture and food industry, according to Scott J. Sheely, special assistant for workforce development for the state Department of Agriculture.

He said agriculture is an economic development issue which contributes $67 billion to the economy.

“It’s important we sustain that,” he said. “To sustain industry we need the workforce.”

From farm workers and technicians to truck drivers and scientists, Sheely said they are all essential and in need to keep the industry afloat.

In the forestry industry, there are available jobs for high school and college graduates, according to president of Lewis Lumber Keith Atherhold.

“There are tremendous opportunities in this industry,” chairman of Keystone Wood Products Association Scott Seyler said.

They both said having employees operate computer operated machines and sales are all essential in keeping the industry alive.