A FARMER OUTSTANDING IN HIS FIELD — Retired agriculture teacher Carl Kalk is joining other teachers today to promote agriculture education during National Teach Ag Day. Information on the event may be found at www.naae.org/teachag. (Sentinel photo by Roger Seibert)

Retired teacher helps promote National Teach Ag Day

Published Sep 21, 2017 at 4:00pm

National Teach Ag Day is being held today to promote education and innovation in the agricultural field.

Events and programs are being held nationwide which recognize efforts to recruit agriculture teachers, and encourage those who already teach the various skills in what has become a widely diversified field.

The activities are part of the National Teach Ag Campaign. Groups around the country will conduct rallies, host community activities and other events that promote agricultural education.

Organizers are encouraging individual action among students.

These include creating an agriculture lesson, writing a thank-you letter to an agriculture teacher, and using social media to discuss agriculture.

The group urges everyone to contact lawmakers about the value of agriculture. Information on the different actives and events may be found at www.naae.org/teachag.

Outstanding in his field

Carl Kalk, who taught agriculture for 33 years at Adirondack High School and now works part-time in Rome, is among those who promote education in the field.

“I am dedicated to recruiting people to teach agriculture, even in retirement. It’s a very demanding field, but also very rewarding,” Kalk said. “No two days are alike when teaching education. That’s because 90 percent of agricultural education is hands-on, and there are so many different things to teach in agriculture. About 75 to 80 percent of what I taught had to do with dairy farming, and that has branched out into areas ranging from farming to forestry.”

Kalk said he would instruct his students on the many aspects of running, and understanding, different farming techniques.

“I would teach my students about cows, chickens, horses, cats and dogs,” he said. “I would teach them about animals’ reproductive and digestive systems. These could be considered bizarre subjects, but my students were always respectful and ready to learn.”

Path to the future

Kalk lauds the efforts of other local teachers who promote agricultural education. One of Kalk’s students, Heather Sweeney, has replaced him as agriculture teacher at Adirondack.

And, Kalk lauds the efforts of Keith Scheibel, an agriculture teacher at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill High School who has spoken for agriculture education through his work as an Oneida County legislator.

“Keith suports agrucluture, and he runs an excellent program at his school,” Kalk said.

Kalk said agricultural education faces a number of issues.

“The problem is that incorporating these programs is expensive. And, teachers interested in this area are getting older and retiring and there’s no one to replace them,” he said.

Kalk said the work of people like Scheibel are helping lawmakers see the value of agriculture and its teaching.

“Dairy farming is the biggest industry in upstate New York, and it deserves our support, whether through finding fair prices for our farmers or educating people on how to run and succeed at running a dairy farm,” the longtime teacher and agriculture advocate said.

“We also could use help from the state legislature. We are finally getting people in Albany to see the importance of what we do,” he added.