When hired in August 2014, Allen Ingram was charged with the monumental task of resurrecting the long dormant agriculture program in McDowell County. An agricultural program once so strong it was considered a powerhouse in western North Carolina.
What were the expectations for the McDowell County agriculture program when you were hired?
Allen Ingram: The county’s expectations were, and are, high. This area is very rich in agricultural heritage and many individuals in the area recall a time when farming was a way of life. The public support has been incredible.
What successes have you experienced? What obstacles did you face early on?
Allen Ingram: My obstacles are many, but becoming more manageable with the support I receive from my building administration, CTE director and my NC NTSP coach. Being a beginning teacher building a first year agriculture program, I’ve often felt like I had been tasked with building Rome blindfolded with one hand tied behind my back. One ongoing success has been forming a viable FFA (Future Farmers of America) chapter.
How is this year shaping up to be different from last year?
Allen Ingram: This year more students are signing up for the horticulture and animal science classes and I have an amazing core of FFA members that have worked overtime to make the chapter successful. This year these same members are taking the reins of many of our upcoming FFA projects and they will be head and shoulders above their peers with the leadership and life skills they will obtain in FFA. That’s what it’s all about: students. McDowell (HS) has been blessed with some really great students who are helping lay the foundation for something truly great in the future!
For next year we would love to field both a forestry team and a dairy evaluation team for FFA competition. The NC Forestry Service has agreed to assist us with forestry, and we have multiple dairies in the area interested in supporting our program. With this community support, we can certainly field competitive teams!
Any final thoughts?
Allen Ingram: I believe strongly in two phrases. The first is the FFA motto: “Learning to do, Doing to learn, Earning to live, Living to serve”. This motto encompasses everything that agriculture is. We strive do our best to live up to every part of the motto.
The second phrase I feel strongly about is, work smart AND hard. By the year 2050, there will be 9 billion people on this planet. The smart AND hard work of McDowell County agriculture students will help feed these 9 billion people on almost half of the agricultural acreage in use today.