New ag education area launches at Black River Falls High School

Jackson County Chronicle: Black River Falls High School has added a new space to help foster agriculture education.

Students this fall helped launch the fledgling “agtivity” area, which provides space for additional horticulture, conservation and animal science projects while also incorporating Native American culture.

“It’s a beautiful space,” said BRF agriculture teacher and FFA advisor Brad Markhardt. “There are more opportunities for students because of this.”

The area, located outside the high school’s greenhouse, is a project of the National FFA Foundation and donations have come from local and regional businesses. It includes raised-bed and vertical gardens, small fruits and fruit trees, native prairie plants and an animal kennel for use when students bring in animals for presentations.

Produce from the gardens will be donated to the local fruit pantry with the hope of also contributing to the district’s food service program. There are benches built in the style of late renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold and plant identification signs will be created with common, scientific and Ho-Chunk Nation names.

The project looks to incorporate Ho-Chunk and Native American cultural components, including a three-sister garden with Native American-style planting.

“It especially got highlighted to me through a conference that I had this summer … It just looked like a way that I could be a little more culturally responsive in what we’re doing out there,” Markhardt said. “That’s part of the idea – recognizing the significance of our native culture in the area.”

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