Agriculture has always been a fundamental part of the livelihood here in Macomb. However, for the last few decades the town has failed to give Ag that same appreciation in the classroom. From 1987-88 til 2015 there was no Ag program at Macomb Senior High School. Instead, students would have to travel to the next town over to receive the course at West Prairie High School. Time constraints along with scheduling conflicts made it nearly impossible for kids with a curiosity for agriculture to fully get engaged in that field of study. If you were not from a production Ag background or fully committed to studying Ag in college, you did not really have the time to risk trying a course and not liking it. Kids already had enough on their plates with friends, studying classes, extracurricular activities, and most importantly, graduating on time! Something needed to give. How were we going to waste an opportunity to educate our youth about one of the major pillars of Macomb’s existence? In 2015, the Macomb School District with the help of the Macomb Agriscience Association found the solution.
After gathering the proper amount of money and support from the local community, Macomb High was finally able to bring back the Ag program. I was personally excited to see this change occur because I was one of those very kids who all through elementary and high school wondered what it would be like to be an Aggie but never thought I would be able to find the right fit for me. Sure my father was an Ag professor, but I did not grow up on or really around a farm unless I went to visit family in Missouri. When I graduated high school and registered for Western, I declared Ag Business as my major. However, since I had no prior production Ag experience, I had no idea if this was going to be what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It just so happened that it was the best decision I have ever made it my life, and all I want is for the future kids behind me to be able to realize their love for agriculture at a much younger age and can already begin to make their own impact long before they reach college. Macomb High bringing back Ag has done just that for the younger generation of kids like my two younger brothers, who are or were active members, and my little sister in the near future.
Aside from allowing curious adolescents the opportunity to experience production agriculture in the classroom, it also gives students plenty of other opportunities such as developing leadership and public speaking skills, compete in local and national contests, and also allows some of the students to attend the National Ag Convention. Now these courses were brought back in 2015, so what is the Macomb chapter up to? I, like most in town i’m sure, watched closely to see if it was just a one and done program, or if Ag would stick around. This year my questions were answered when the high school cut the ribbon on a brand new greenhouse for the high school.
In October of this year, the Macomb Ag program took another step forward in its comeback to campus by erecting and opening a brand new greenhouse to be able to support the horticulture classes that the school would like to begin offering. When I asked my dad, who played an important role in bring these courses back, about what this would mean for the kids he told me this. “Drew you were one of the new kids to Ag. You know that it is much harder to learn about something new, especially soil and plants if you don’t get in there with em and get your hands dirty. I think this is exactly what kids need.” After just two years of being back in town, Macomb Ag has already accomplished something people said might take as long as 5-10 years before anything would get done. With an estimated value of around $50,000, the 30 foot by 60 foot structure was made possible by several local businesses like DuPont Pioneer and Ayerco along with the Tracy Family Foundation that granted most of the money needed for the project. Now with upwards of 80 active students, new horticulture classes, and a brand new greenhouse, I could not be more proud to say that I see Ag being an instrumental part of Macomb High as well as our town for years to come.
My name is Drew Baker and I am a Junior at Western Illinois University majoring in Ag Business. With my degree I look to move out of state to pursue a career in Sales or Marketing.