04 November 2014
Tucked away behind the high school is a large, hoop-style greenhouse where Fluvanna’s seasoned agriculture teacher is planting seeds of inspiration in his students’ lives.
Russell Jennings certainly looks the part. Wearing denim and an impressive beard, this fast talking, energetic man moves through the greenhouse with surprising grace. “Right now we’ve got just a few things growing,” he said, gesturing towards flats filled with the ruffled leaves of lettuce and upright basil plants. The “winter room” – about a third the length of the full greenhouse – is partitioned off with plastic sheeting to save on heating costs through the winter.
Oddly enough, this largely rural community, with its rich history of farming, went almost 20 years without an agriculture program in its schools. Fluvanna’s agricultural community, led by the Farm Bureau, worked with Fluvanna schools to reintroduce agriculture courses into the curriculum. Fluvanna High School now offers four agriculture classes; since this is the second year the program has been in place, only the first two courses are currently being taught. The school system scored a coup when they persuaded Jennings, a Virginia Tech graduate with a degree in agriculture education and 15 years of experience teaching agriculture in Central Virginia, to come head their new agriculture program in 2013.
“Our local Farm Bureau has advocated for putting Ag back into our schools since I came to Fluvanna in 2010,” said Superintendent Gena Keller. “Our School Board agreed that it was a priority. Ag is one of many courses that offers our students an opportunity to participate in meaningful instruction and provides footing for lifelong skills - even a career. Our agriculture classes are hands-on,” Keller added, “and bring a level of student engagement that we seek to provide in all classes! I am really pleased with our progress thus far and Mr. Jennings is a wonderful addition to our schools and community.”