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New Agriscience Land Lab proposed next to high school

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FALLS VILLAGE—The Agriscience and Technology Advisory Committee, which is proposing that a Agriscience Land Lab be developed on a parcel of land to be leased from Eversource, received unanimous support for the concept Monday by the Region 1 Board of Education.

An Agriscience Land Lab concept was approved Monday by the Region 1 Board of Education that would eventually see eight plots of land dedicated to contemporary agricultural practices such as the first two plots shown in a presentation. Photo by Lynn Mellis Worthington

Bruce Bennett, chairman of the advisory committee, presented the proposal to the regional school board. His group approached Eversource about using a portion of a 20-acre meadow just north of the school for agriscience activities.

The idea is to develop an Agriscience Land Lab as a hands-on teaching area for students at Housatonic Valley Regional High School and adults.

“A land lab is a series of research plots,” Bennett said. It will allow students and local citizens to have a hands-on experience with a variety of contemporary agricultural practices and opportunities. This includes natural resources, plant science, food science, landscaping, fruit production and engineering.

Eversource has agreed to lease a seven-acre parcel of the land to the group. Bennett explained that the lease could be extended, once the committee shows a consistent use of the property.

“The plots will be staked out and planned by the students with a member of our committee, who is a landscape architect,” Bennett said. The goal is to “prepare a future work force that can develop advanced skills that will enable them to work and live locally.”

He explained that the plan is to start with one plot on Natural Resources/Animal Science and this would focus on arboriculture and bird observation. Students would learn forestry, climbing, tree removal and pruning as well as pesticide use. The next plot to be developed would be on food science, with a farm-to-table focus on produce production with a variety of vegetables being grown. Eventually there would be eight plots.

“This proposal represents a major addition to the current teaching tools,” Bennett explained. “It will provide instruction about the source of agricultural products and the issues of production.”

Experts will be provided to work with the students during the construction and maintenance phases. The materials produced will be able to offset some of the materials that have historically been purchased for classroom activities in the past.

This proposal is still in the planning stages and Bennett acknowledged the group is calculating the costs and researching the grant possibilities. Eventually it will need financial support from the regional school board.

Board Chairman Patricia Mechare expressed her support.

“I think it is a terrific idea,” she said and asked if Eversource has an educational program that would allow HVRHS to showcase this project. “This would be a perfect project for them. It might be well to approach them.”

Kent’s representative to the board, Jenn Duncan, said she loves the idea and thought it was a great opportunity for the Supervised Agriculture Experience (SAE), particularly for those students who don’t have access to their own land. 

Region 1 Business Manager Sam Herrick said there would be a nominal annual cost of $1 for the lease. He said there are 172 students involved in the Agricultural Education Science and Technology program and the state provides about $900,000 to the school for this use calculated on a per student basis.

“I think this is exactly what we should be doing,” said Superintendent Lisa Carter. “It will make the high school such a unique and exciting place and I think something that students could learn a lot from.”

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