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Ag science instructor hopes to grow program
new slt FFA cutting
Jace Schwager works on a welding project in this recent photo taken in the Advanced Agriculture Mechanics class at Great Bend High School. Next year the class will be called Advanced Agricultural Welding. - photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

If Great Bend High School agriculture instructor Kevin Hoff had his wishes granted, the GBHS shop building would be bigger and the school would start a small farm in the neighborhood. Until that happens, he is working to strengthen community partnerships in his first year as at GBHS.
Hoff teaches welding and ag science. He also sponsors the FFA Club, which has 82 members.
A lot of the students at GBHS have grown up on a farm, Hoff said. When they come to his welding class, they often bring something they can use at home to work on. Students without farm experience also work on projects.
Student Blake Ridgel found a Chevrolet pickup tailgate and designed a metal bench. Jack Schwager has plans for a deer blind. His design was plotted on the school’s computer-aided design (CAD) drafting equipment.
With or without a larger shop, future welding students might find themselves making metal pipe fences for a corral on a school farm.
“It’s kind of been a dream of mine to have a school farm,” Hoff said. “These students could do a lot of the construction for that farm.” He envisions a small commercial venture with two or three cattle and some chickens, sheep or goats. It could be maintained by students in the FFA club and the ag science class. Students could make decisions about breeding and sales.
Other classes, such as biology, might also use the farm.
“I think it could happen,” he said. “Right now we’re just in the process of talking about it.”
At one time he thought students might restore the petting zoo at Great Bend’s Brit-Spagh Zoo. The area already has a barn and is not being used at this time. However, he found that operating a petting zoo involves too much red tape and wouldn’t serve the purpose.
The ideal set-up would be close to the high school. Hoff said it wouldn’t need to take up a lot of space — perhaps only a couple of city lots. But that would require the approval of the city and neighboring residents.
Hoff thought his idea was original, but after he started doing research he learned it is not.
“There are actually a lot of school farms around,” he said.
He has been brainstorming with interested community leaders. Hoff said he has made good contacts and learned that strong partnerships already exist. Individuals from Animal Medical Center, the City of Great Bend, Barton Community College, ILS, Farm Bureau and the Great Bend Co-op have all expressed interest in helping.