Some Union City Area Middle-High school students will benefit from funding through the Pennsylvania Farm Grant program.
Gov. Tom Wolf has announced the approval of $500,000 in Ag and Youth Grants to fund 55 projects in 25 counties that will improve access to agriculture education in the commonwealth. The goal of the grant program is to address the looming 75,000 workforce deficit Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry faces in the coming decade, according to a news release from the governor’s office.
“Today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders, entrepreneurs, scientists and agribusiness owners,” Wolf said. “This $500,000 is the seed to tomorrow’s bountiful future for Pennsylvania agriculture.”
The Union City Area School District will receive $7,500 for the purchase of equipment.
Amy Coleman, director of curriculum and special programs for the district, wrote the grant application. She said the money will benefit any student who takes the agriculture power and technology class.
“The students who take the class learn about a four-stroke engine, and this will allow all students to have access to the same type of engine,” Coleman said. “Additionally, it provides materials for the instructor to use in teaching about the engine.”
The funds will be used to help purchase a Briggs & Stratton OHV 950 SeriesTM 20 student Engine Training Kit.
"I am thrilled that we will be able to purchase the classroom set of small engines for our students to use in their studies,” Coleman said. “The teacher had asked for this class set before and we weren't able to purchase it, so this is exciting that it will fill a need that we had in that particular class and will benefit the students' learning."
Corey Bailey teaches the agriculture power and technology class, which meets daily for nine weeks.
Baily said, on average, about 20 students enroll in the ag power tech class.
“We typically have all boys in the class, but the class is open to anyone,” Bailey said. “I am excited to receive the grant and add new resources to our class.
The Briggs & Stratton Kit contains 10 each OHV Engines equipped with metric fasteners. The kit also contains as many support parts as needed to go with the 10 engines. Those parts include engine gasket sets, crankcase cover gaskets, head gaskets, ring sets and flywheel keys. There are also repair manuals, text books, workbooks, CDs, DVDs, tools (such as basic tool kits and torque wrenches) and an instructor course.
Bailey said the students have focused on a variety of topics in the class, not just building engines.
“The students have learned about small engine theory, safety, teamwork and proper tool usage,” Bailey said.
He also said the class will help students in the future.
“The students develop problem-solving skills in this class that will help them in every aspect of life,” Bailey said.
This past July, Wolf signed Act 40 to re-enact Pennsylvania's Ag and Youth Grant Program as part of the state's first-ever Pennsylvania Farm Bill. The program, funded at $500,000, provides youth organizations direct, nonmatching grants of up to $7,500 to defray costs of eligible projects and matching reimbursement grants of up to $25,000 for capital projects or equipment purchases.
Union City’s grant was one of 43 nonmatching grant projects. There were 12 matching grant projects.
Union City’s grant is one of only two grants awarded in Erie County. The other grant is $6,010 to the Erie School District for its urban ag program.
Eligible projects included those that are for education or workforce development seminars or field trips, agricultural safety training programs and capital projects or equipment.
“All youth should have access to the same opportunities for growth and career development,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “These programs are urban, rural or suburban, and they all further our mission to grow the industry's future leaders. It's experiences in these programs that we hope will influence Pennsylvania youth for a lifetime.”
During the Pennsylvania Farm Show, which was held Jan. 4-11 in Harrisburg, Redding and Education Executive Deputy Secretary David Volkman met some of the youth who will benefit from the approved funding, including members of the Pennsylvania Future Farmers of America, 4-H and LEAF, a group that cultivates leadership through hands-on agriculture experiences for youth from diverse backgrounds.
“Pennsylvania has a rich history in agriculture and in connecting students with the industry through organizations like FFA and 4-H,” Volkman said. “The grants will allow even more students to learn about these vital businesses and the career opportunities they offer.”
State reps. Eddie Day Pashinski (D-121st) and Pam DeLissio (D-184th) championed Act 40, which reinstated the Ag and Youth Grant Program in Wolf’s Pennsylvania Farm Bill.