Proud to be a Farmer: Southwest Georgia Academy

Agribusiness is the number one industry in Georgia
News 4's Carmen Fuentes checks out Southwest Georgia Academy's agriculture accomplishments.
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 10:01 AM CDT
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - Agribusiness is the number one industry in Georgia; having a $74 billion economic impact each year.

Southwest Georgia Academy in Damascus recognized how important agriculture is to the peach state and, with a new program, hopes to foster young farmers to continue the trade.

Assistant headmaster and Ag teacher, Jay Winkler didn’t hesitate when the school’s headmaster asked what the small private school was missing.

Winkler immediately suggested Southwest Georgia Academy needed an agriculture program.

He saw how deeply rooted agriculture is in Damascus and surrounding communities.

“So many jobs in our area come from agriculture or are at least affiliated with agriculture. If you come back to our area, you’re either going to go into the medical field, you’re going to be a teacher, or you’re going to have something to do with agriculture,” Winkler explained.

Growing up in a farming family, Winkler has seen, first-hand, the number of farmers in his community decline over time.

“That’s why we think it’s important that you not only cover the agriscience aspect of it, but we want to cover the business side of it too, so they know how to get into farming. How to manage their money once they do get into farming. How to understand profits, losses. How to understand risks,” he said.

Many students in Winkler’s class come from an agriculture family and understand how vital it is to their community and beyond.

10 grade agriculture student, Thorne Johnson says, “It’s very important. I mean farmers are really the backbone of this country.”

The class is meant to expose students to the world of agriculture and show them how it’s meshed into their everyday lives.

“I don’t know much about the fielding and the actual farming and stuff, but as far as the good bit there is like gardening, spraying round-up around the house, I mean it’s kind of the same as what you do at your home and your farm,” Johnson said.

But how does a teacher keep technology-addicted students engaged in a class about the hands-on, hard laboring world of agriculture?

Carmen Scott says, :[H]e’s really funny first of all. He tells a lot of stories. And whenever we’re talking about a certain unit, he’ll bring up stories from his past and what he has to deal with and it’s very interesting. We get to go outside a lot, which I really love that. We just went over to the cotton field which was amazing and picking the flowers.”

Whether his students decide to go into an agriculture profession or go a different route, Jay Winkler’s goal remains the same.

“I’ve tried to link it to our area. That’s been the whole focus behind this program is slanting it to a South Georgia perspective. Not a national, not a global, but a South Georgia perspective. So, you can see all of the various tie ins with agriculture no matter what job you go into,” he concluded.

Last year, the school served students collard greens, grown by students, for lunch.

This year, students are planting turnips that will be served for lunch once they are harvested.

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