Forsyth-Monroe County Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting for Monroe County Schools’ new Agriculture Science Center on Tuesday, Oct. 1. Legislative, county, chamber, city and school officials attended to celebrate the new addition to the school system and the community. Agriculture students from Monroe County Middle School and Mary Persons also came to the ribbon cutting.
Mary Persons agriculture teacher Bill Waldrep said the first set of hogs will be coming to the Ag-Science Center this weekend. The 12-acre facility includes three pole barns and a surrounding fence that gives animals enclosed pasture on which to graze. There is a cattle barn, a barn for small livestock and an open pavilion to practice showing animals and other livestock handling skills. There are also bathroom facilities.
The Ag-Science Center is on Thornton Road, between T.G. Scott Elementary and Monroe County Middle School, walking distance from both. It is about a five-minute bus ride from Mary Persons. It was built on land the school system already owned with ESPLOST funds. In fact it was included in the list of projects for the ESPLOST in the cycle before the current one, which was approved by voters in November 2017. The site is level but has a drop-off around it, which along with the trees in place provides a natural buffer.
Waldrep thanked the Board of Education and everyone who had a hand in getting the Ag-Science Center built. He said that in his 18 years of teaching at Mary Persons, the animal science area of the agricultural program was the part that he felt he was not able to do justice.
“Now we can teach the skills for raising livestock,” said Waldrep. “This will give everyone the opportunity who wants to lear n. There is a lot to be learned from raising livestock.”
There are presently about 150 students enrolled in agriculture classes at Mary Persons, including horticulture, forestry and agriculture mechanics as well as animal science. There are about 160 middle school students enrolled in agriculture classes. Almost all of the students are also involved in the FFA Club, which provides extracurricular opportunities in agriculture. In addition to Waldrep, Ryan Smith teaches agriculture classes at Mary Persons. Skyler Alexander teaches agriculture classes at Monroe County Middle School.
In January 2013 FFA Alumni David White, who owns Forsyth Feed & Seed, asked the school board for additional resources for the growing FFA program at Monroe County Schools, including a truck and trailer for hauling livestock to competitions and an animal science building. White said he was impressed with the facilities he saw in Carrollton, Thomaston and Perry as he travelled with the Monroe County students for FFA events. The school board was receptive to his request.
Construction on the Ag-Science building began in 2018, with plans for the three buildings drawn by SP Design Group presented to the Board of Education in February 2018 with hopes for completion that fall. Wet weather in late 2018 and early 2019 caused some construction delays. School facilities manager Roger Onstott told the board construction had to wait for a 98 percent compaction rate of the ground because the posts for the barns had to be 4-feet deep with a concrete base and rebar to make sure the structures were safe for students and could withstand storms.
The cattle barn will, of course, house cows. The small livestock barn will house sheep, goats and pigs. The open pavilion will be for students who are learning and practicing skills.
“We are so excited to have this fantastic facility in Monroe County,” said Kari Buckindail of the Forsyth-Monroe County Chamber. “Y’all have a great time while you’re out here learning hands on.”