Johnstown-Monroe High School's agricultural education program is just one of many cuts that will be implemented this fall if the 9.6-mill emergency operating levy fails on May 5.

Johnstown-Monroe High School's agricultural education program is just one of many cuts that will be implemented this fall if the 9.6-mill emergency operating levy fails on May 5.

Agricultural education instructor Debra Burden said the program currently boasts 50 students who are involved in three main components: classroom/lab instruction, supervised agricultural experience projects and FFA.

The program, Burden said, provides students with skills in leadership, public speaking and accounting. It also teaches them about environmental awareness and resource conservation.

"Some students, who might not excel in the regular classroom or who want to excel at a higher level, often require an alternative way of learning, such as extensive hands-on experience," Burden said.

Sophomore Kaitlynn Kirk said that if the program is cut, she will have to change what she wants to do.

"It's like our future," she said. "I would like to be an equine vet."

The program would also be beneficial to Brooke Ison, who plans to major in natural sciences dealing with agriculture.

"I show cows and hogs," she said. "This program has taught me how to take care of a garden and (taught me) public speaking. It's like a second home. We're like one big family."

Sophomore Brayden Warner said the program provides many scholarship opportunities to students.

"It taught me a lot of things I didn't know existed," he said. "I learned about different soils. I'll probably go into architecture. That's why I like the soils. There are many opportunities to do different things."

Sophomore Lydia Ulry said the ag program has been a family tradition, as she follows in the shoes of her brother and father.

"You get to meet great, different people," she said. "I would like to pursue (a career) in ag science."

Caitlyn Dever, FFA chapter president, is running for state president and wants to be able to represent the 80-year-old Johnstown Chapter.

"I'd like the younger students to have the same opportunities that I've had," she said. "I will go to college for ag business, so I can be a CEO of some big ag business. There are so many skills you acquire from the program that you don't realize."

This year's seven seniors have already earned over $100,000 in scholarships to further their education. Other chapter achievements have included 73 State FFA Degrees, 11 American Degrees, and five State FFA Officers.

Beginning Thursday, April 30, six J-M students will compete at the State Agri-Science Contest including Elisa Higgins, Christine Snowden, William Huber, Julia Myer, Ulry and Warner. In addition, Adam Dague is a top four finalist for Ohio Star Farmer and for grain production proficiency. Dever is a state FFA reporter and a finalist for Ohio FFA president. Senior Kaylie Bowman was just selected to compete in the State FFA Talent Show with her jazz dance routine.

The Supervised Agricultural Experience program is the only program in public schools that enables students to earn a significant amount of money while still in high school, according to Burden.

From the 2005-06 school year through December 2008, J-M's agricultural students have grossed $307,362 from their projects.

Beginning Wednesday, May 6, students will begin selling plants from their greenhouse including tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, squash, broccoli and junior sunflowers, among others.

The plants will be sold from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a suggested $1 donation for individual plants, and $15 per flat.

"We built the greenhouse nine years ago and it has been in production for the public the last eight years," said Burden, who has taught at J-M the last nine years.

Burden, who was reared on a cattle/grain farm in eastern Knox County, earned a degree in agriculture and secondary education from Wilmington College. She's currently working on a master's degree from the University of Findlay.

Her job hinges on the levy.

If the five-year emergency levy is approved, the ag program would be redesigned. Other items that would come back to the district include: a special needs teacher position, part-time second foreign language program, most co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, the marching band program and athletic programs.