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From the farm to the classroom
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Not too many people grow up on farms anymore - not even high school agri-science teachers - but Brandon Walker did.

Walker's family raised cattle, turkey and swine, but he realizes many of his students may not have the same appreciation for agriculture that his boyhood instilled in him.

"None of my kids are going to be farmers - I don't even own a cow anymore," Walker said. "I would love to be wealthy enough to own land though."

In addition to teaching agri-science classes at Alcovy High School, Walker works as an FFA advisor. He assists students with supervised agricultural experiences which can garner them recognition and scholarships.

Walker helps students with projects in areas of tree identification, forestry, floriculture, job interviews, wildlife management and market hog production.

"There's so much more to FFA now than sows, cows and plows," Walker said.

Although he admits those things are still a big part of FFA competitions.

As a fourth-year teacher, Walker looks as if he could be an Alcovy student. His students suggested growing up on a farm must have helped him develop his sense of humor - even students not in his class can identify him as "the goofy one."

Walker explained he appeals to students' funny bones because he wants agri-science and FFA to attract students from all walks of life.

"I don't want to limit it from socioeconomic background," Walker said. "I want to involve everybody."

He explained one of the biggest challenges of teaching agriculture to high school students is helping them understand the industry is alive and well and not something found only in history books.

"They really don't think of agriculture as their food, which is like not seeing a forest for the trees," Walker said. "It's all about helping them to relate and see how agriculture fits into their life, because everybody has to eat and wear clothes."

He remembered an FFA shirt from last year which asked the question "what would you be without agriculture" and answered on the back "naked and hungry."

Another challenge for agriculture teachers comes with designing activities for classroom instruction.

"The struggle is trying to get them hands-on activities because they're in class all day and they don't want to take notes the whole time," Walker said.

Walker knows his students will likely never have to know how to drive a tractor, irrigate a field or milk a cow but still thinks agricultural education is important.

"The point of teaching these kids this is to make them informed consumers and responsible citizens," Walker said.

Watching students mature from year to year and watching self-motivated students work toward their higher education goals is Walker's favorite thing about teaching.

He said his students have taught him as much as he's taught them.

"You really learn by teaching," Walker said. "I just try to stay one step ahead of them."