New classes offered at McDowell High School will allow ninth- through 12th-grade students to explore all things farm and field.

During January’s McDowell County Board of Education meeting, board members approved several new classes in the Career and Technical Education Program at McDowell High School. Several are part of the school’s new agriculture program.

Starting next year, the school will offer a variety of agriculture classes, including Agriscience Applications, Animal Science I and II and Horticulture I and II.

Career and Technical Education Director Mary Finley said the program had come about after years of planning by an Agriculture Committee, which is made up of school board members and members of the community.

“Bob Brackett has been very instrumental in this program,” said Finley. “James Nations from Farm Bureau has been a big help along with Jeff Mast from Banner Greenhouses and Greg Anderson from the Cooperative Extension. They’ve really helped us shape this program.”

Finley stated that both standard and honor versions of each course would be offered to students next year.

“The agriculture program is built on three core areas of classroom and lab instructions, supervised agriculture experience programs and Future Farmers of America (FFA), where students can compete using the skills they’ve learned,” said Finley.

Each of the new classes is designed to help students get a better understanding of the numerous careers available in agriculture.

“A lot of our students don’t realize that there are more than 300 careers in the agriculture industry,” said Finley. “These courses will help them see that they can have careers in production, financing, processing, marketing and distribution of agriculture products.”

Finley also stated that classes like Animal Science would give students interested in becoming a veterinarian a better idea of what will be expected of them while in vet school.

Students who choose to explore agriculture classes will take Agriscience Applications as an introduction class. After that, they will be able to decide whether they want to pursue further classes in Animal Science or Horticulture, or possibly both fields if their schedule allows.

Finley stated that a special classroom had been built specifically for the new program during construction at the high school and that additional resources would come for the program as time went on.

“Plans are underway to put in a greenhouse for the program and in the future we would like to have a small farm with live animals, but that will be in the future,” said Finley.

Additional information about these courses can be found by visiting mhs.mcdowell.k12.nc.us, clicking on the “our school” link, and then clicking on handbooks and the Course of Study Catalog 2014-15.

Other new courses approved during this month’s meeting include:

-- Pharmacy Technician

-- Biomedical Technology I

-- Biomedical Technology II