IW Land Lab gets $10K grant for cattle herding facility

Published 2:22 pm Monday, September 16, 2019

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Isle of Wight County Schools recently received a $10,000 grant from the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education Program to construct a cattle-handling facility at the school district’s Land Lab behind Windsor Elementary School. The facility will be used to teach safe animal-handling practices to students participating in the district’s agriculture program, and to better monitor the animals’ health at the lab.

Grow Rural Education, which is sponsored by the Bayer Fund, had partnered with local farmers in early 2019 to award more than $2.3 million in grants to rural schools for the purpose of enhancing their science, technology, engineering and math programs. To qualify for a Grow Rural Education grant, schools and school districts first needed to secure nominations from farmers to compete for a merit-based grant of either $10,000 or $25,000. Local farmers who nominated Isle of Wight County Schools include Mark Carr, Shawn Carr, DeeDee Darden, Pam Oliver and Jesse Williams. School districts that were nominated then submitted a grant application describing their STEM-focused project. Grow Rural Education’s Farmer Advisory Council, consisting of approximately 30 farmer leaders from across the country, then reviewed the finalist applications and selected the winning school districts, including Isle of Wight County Schools.

“America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education is a unique program because farmers play an important role throughout the process, from nominating schools to selecting the grant winners,” said Al Mitchell, president, Bayer Fund. “With the incredible support of local farmers, countless grant-winning schools have shared with us how Grow Rural Education funds have made their STEM programs more engaging and, in several instances, positively impacted test scores.”

IWCS’s Land Lab is a working farm, which began in September 2017. It was built from the ground up by high school students enrolled in the district’s agriculture program, who constructed chicken coops, fencing, water lines, goat sheds and rabbit cages. In December 2018, IWCS celebrated the opening of its “million dollar barn” on the site, complete with stables and a classroom building.

Jason Brittle, IWCS’s agriculture teacher, informed the School Board during its Thursday meeting that the cattle facility will be equipped with a device to hold the cows still so that students can work with them, and will also be equipped with scales for weighing the animals. The facility will be used for goats as well.

The district, Brittle said, may have its building trades and agriculture students collaborate on the facility’s construction, adding that the plan is to eventually add a roof over the structure similar to a photograph he showed during the School Board meeting.

Since Grow Rural Education began in 2011, it has awarded more than $18 million to more than 1,000 schools in rural communities across the United States. To view a complete list of winners or to learn more about the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program, visit AmericasFarmers.com or follow along on Facebook at facebook.com/AmericasFarmers.