CROGHAN, NY — The New York Association of Agricultural Educators (NYAAE) has selected the Vernon-Verona-Sherrill (VVS) High School Agriculture Program as New York State’s Outstanding Middle/Secondary School Agricultural Education Program. The program was formally recognized in June in front of more than 130 agriculture educators from across New York at the association’s annual professional development conference. For the second time in five years, VVS will receive this prestigious statewide award.
The award is based upon achievements in agriculture curricula, experiential learning, leadership development, partnerships, and professional growth. The VVS Agriculture and FFA program has earned a reputation, both locally and statewide, as a premier leader in agriculture education with development of high-quality student standards and achievements in many facets of agriculture. Most notably is the program’s pervasive involvement in the maple industry.
Known nationally and internationally, VVS annually conducts several activities permeated from the maple industry. From operation of a commercial maple syrup production facility to marketing through community events such as FFA’s Maple Weekend, the youth program capitalizes on engagement of agriculture students in practical, real-world experiences. As hosts of the internationally recognized January Maple Conference, FFA members prepare for a multitude of careers utilizing hands-on learning, public speaking, and critical thinking. The maple conference attracts more than 1,000 participants from throughout North America. The agriculture program also conducts numerous other activities including the operation of a mobile maple exhibit to conduct agriculture literacy presentations for elementary students throughout New York State. Additionally, twice in the past seven years, FFA members have toured Canada’s maple regions near Quebec City.
Long-time veteran agriculture educator and FFA advisor Keith Schiebel leads the VVS program. Under Schiebel’s guidance, the VVS agriculture program has thrived and flourished garnering numerous state and national honors. “It’s an honor to be nominated and selected by your educational peers who recognize the successes of our students and efforts to build a premier FFA program.” Schiebel went on to say, “The award authenticates the efforts of numerous individuals including school officials and staff, community members, FFA Alumni and volunteers, parents and especially our students and FFA members, both present and past.” Schiebel has been the agriculture educator at VVS for 33 of the school program’s 66 years of existence. The VVS FFA Chapter is 125 members strong and the program has grown to warrant the addition of two additional teachers — Mark Peavey and Sara Tuthill.
Through a recent Oneida County grant acquired by Schiebel, the VVS agriculture program is building a state-of-the-art animal science center and plans to offer classes to students from area schools. The facility is designed to house up to six agriculture species and provide instruction in animal husbandry and care, veterinary science, agriculture business, and a variety of related topics. The new facility will enable entrepreneurial opportunities for student ownership and enhance educational offerings in food science. The facility will compliment the program’s maple sugarhouse, which is scheduled to be built this year.
The goal of the NYAAE teacher’s association is to promote outstanding programs and effectively communicate success stories. Former VVS colleague and now Madison FFA advisor Paul Perry remarked, “V.V.S. has an outstanding agriculture program that others in the state try to emulate; the community should take great pride in what they have to offer students.” Perry serves as state FFA trustee and NYAAE representative for the region and nominated VVS for the honors. VVS’s application will now be submitted to the National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) for national consideration.
According to Helen Thomas, executive director of the New York Maple Producers Association (NYMPA), “VVS is the standard for agriculture education in New York, especially when it comes to the maple industry. The FFA members and its advisor Keith Schiebel have had a profound effect on the recent growth, interest and development of New York’s maple industry.” Schiebel was previously recognized by the association with its top honor, the Hubbel Sugarmakers Award. The VVS FFA annually hosts NYMPA’s Board of Directors meeting as part of its conference in January.
NYAAE President-Elect and awards committee chair Michele Kline shared in her assessment of the program’s accomplishments, “The agriculture education and FFA program at VVS has had a tremendous impact on its school, community and our state. VVS exemplifies the merits of an outstanding agriculture program and are to be commended for their success as our state winner.”