Mid-West Farm Report: Medford School Gives Students On-Farm Experience
There are some barn chores to do at Medford High School, and that suits Lisa Kopp just fine.
Kopp, the Medford School District’s lead vocational agriculture instructor, said the district’s leaders have worked with her to provide what many high school vo-ag instructors could dream about: Its own small farm.
“I was hired five years ago, and I had a crazy vision that, ‘in five years, I need a farm – I need a barn on the school property,’” Kopp said.
In the district in which she’d taught before Medford, Kopp would take a calf or a horse to school for a day, but not have housing for the animals. It would be most convenient, she believed, if several farm animals could be housed at school facilities so students could study them directly. And, the education could include learning directly how to care for the animals.
Kopp moved forward with her idea, with the faith that she could gain enough community support to find a place to build a barn. She developed an initial plan and then gathered a group to help make the dream a reality.
“I dreamed it up and got a ‘barn board’ together,” she said.
Fundraising for the project started about 2½ years ago. The project quickly started receiving donations and grants of anywhere from $25 to $25,000. “It came together really fast,” Kopp said.
The initial plan included building a building about 50-50-feet. But it happened that the small farm adjacent to the Taylor County high school’s property came up for sale, and funds were raised to purchase it. The existing farm included a small stanchion dairy barn, silo and house.
The house was razed after two years – but not before the school’s FFA chapter held two Halloween haunted house events in it, which raised $7,000.
A new barn-classroom building was built on the property. More than $200,000 for the new facility. That doesn’t include the district’s purchase of the property or general maintenance. Kopp said the ongoing costs simply have become part of her department’s annual budgets.
“It’s part of my classroom,” she said. “Instead of a textbook, it might be a halter.”
Day-to-day donations such as feed and some equipment continue to help hold the operation’s costs in check.
Greenhouse and honey bee facilities are being planned, and Kopp said there are plenty of other ideas for directions the facilities could take. Kopp said it’s occasionally challenging to step back and slow down with the ideas.
“I say, ‘Lisa, one thing at a time,’” she said.
Animals have been provided through donations, and the animals are being raised and sold in the community, with proceeds going back into the project. However, things keep moving forward. And, Kopp said it’s good to have facilities that provide for continuous new ideas for opening educational opportunities. The new facility has Kopp’s classroom, and a part-time vo-ag teacher Hannah Rohland works in the existing classroom and has labs in the barn and new buidling.
“Maybe they won’t leave here being a farmer, but someday they might raise hogs or chickens for their families,” Kopp said.