**For Immediate Release**
Cultivating Agricultural Education in Texas County
by Laura Hays
- released by OPSU Campus Communications 01-12-2007
Goodwell, Okla. - Texas County, Oklahoma, is the center of many agriculture-based endeavors, and in 2005, led the entire state in bushels produced of corn and grain sorghum and second in bushels of wheat. In addition, January 1, 2006 statistics indicate Texas County had more head of cattle than any other county in Oklahoma. These facts, presented in Oklahoma Agricultural Statistics 2006, a cooperative publication by the United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry, affirm Texas County’s significant role in agriculture in the state.
Agricultural education plays a key role in the success of the ag-based economy and includes youth programs, Oklahoma State University Extension Education, as well as Oklahoma Panhandle State University’s many agricultural programs. It provides everything from current information that directly impacts producers’ livelihoods to training tomorrow’s leaders.
Six area towns including Yarbrough, Texhoma, Goodwell, Guymon, Hooker and Hardesty, offer 4-H Clubs for youth 9-19 years old, and two also make available Clover Bud Clubs for those from 5-8 years old. Members choose from a wide variety of ag-related activities such as livestock shows, shooting sports, and tractor and machinery safety schools. 4-H also offers a number of other activities and educational opportunities such as camps and workshops. These programs are run by Steve Kraich, OSU Extension Agent, and Arleen James, the County Extension Director and Family and Consumer Services and 4-H Educator. Kraich also assists area producers with concerns such as resource management and crop families in addition to community-wide issues like food, nutrition, health, and safety information.
Over 200 Texas County junior and high school youth are involved in their Future Farmers of America chapters. The FFA mission states that it “makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.” FFA membership promotes leadership, awareness of agriculture issues, and opportunities for students to be actively involved in the industry through its many activities.
Since its establishment in 1909, Oklahoma Panhandle State University also contributes significantly to agricultural education in Texas County through degree plans, partnerships and outreach in the local and regional ag communities, and research.
Four year degree Bachelor’s of Science degree programs within the School of Agriculture include Ag Business, Animal Science, Agronomy, Ag Education, and Equine Science, our newest program. Two-year Associate degree programs are also offered in Agriculture and Farm and Ranch Management. Over 90% of OPSU Ag graduates are either placed in professional positions in their field of choice or are accepted to graduate school at institutions such as OSU, Michigan State, and the University of Arkansas. The hands-on, practical training students receive serve them well on the job or in prestigious graduate programs. In the past four years, five graduates alone have been accepted to the OSU Veterinary Medicine School.
OPSU provides a number of combined educational and community service programs. The Firestone Meats Laboratory, a USDA-inspected facility, serves the community with meat processing capabilities and also provides students with hands-on experience that supplements their classroom training. Student workers and Farm Manager John Sircy maintain 450 cultivated acres and 1,650 acres that include pastureland, buildings, and corrals, as well as two herds of cattle, sheep, swine, and horses. The OSU Research and Extension Center is also located on the farm, and focuses on crop research that benefits area producers. OPSU and OSU officials are currently planning a cooperative beef feedlot research facility on the farm.
Other agriculture-related educational opportunities at OPSU include competition and sporting activities. One outgrowth of the new Equine Science program is the OPSU Equestrian Team, which competes regionally and recently brought home reserve champion honors from a western event in Colby, Kansas. The OPSU Livestock Judging Team competes in 10 national contests each year, and vies for individual honors and team honors against major ag universities from across the nation. The team routinely ranks in the top ten at each event. Many members of the OPSU Rodeo Team receive degrees within the School of Agriculture. The men’s team boasts four national championships since 1997, and currently sits first in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Central Plains Region, with the women’s team in second place. OPSU also hosts junior college livestock judging events and livestock shows throughout the year that draw students and their families from the five-state OPSU service area. One of the premier events hosted on campus each fall is the High School Interscholastics contest sponsored by the OPSU Collegiate FFA. Over 1,000 FFA members from surrounding states compete each year in livestock judging, public speaking, entomology, and crop contests.
OPSU sponsors what is believed to be the oldest consecutively held beef bull performance test every year. With the 55th annual test currently underway, 122 bulls are being evaluated and the top end of those animals will be consigned to the bull sale scheduled for February 28 at the England Activity Center on the Farm. The test provides research information on the bulls and also allows OPSU students to learn research techniques and day-to-day care of the livestock.
Other research projects include the Radio Frequency Identification cattle tagging products currently being tested within the School of Agriculture. Made possible by an economic development grant from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, the results will be made public soon by Dr. Peter Camfield, OPSU’s Dean of Agriculture.
One of the most exciting projects on campus right now is the new Science and Agriculture Building construction project. In 2005, the Oklahoma legislature passed a $500 million bond issue that addressed the urgent need for higher education institutions statewide to improve infrastructure and renovate learning centers.
With the $6.53 million allotted to OPSU, a building will be built in the center of campus, an appropriate location since agriculture remains the foundation of the Texas County economy. The new structure will enhance learning by providing students with adequate laboratory space and up-to-date equipment. In addition, a Water Quality Testing lab will benefit local municipalities and a Chemistry/Feed Analysis lab will provide service to the agricultural sector.
Construction will begin in earnest later this month following the opening of bids from subcontractors. Construction completion is scheduled for the summer of 2008 in time for OPSU’s Centennial Celebration in 2009.
As Oklahoma celebrates her centennial this year, education continues to play a key role in the success of the local ag-based economy, and working together through youth programs, Oklahoma State University Extension Education, and Oklahoma Panhandle State University, Texas County will continue to lead Oklahoma’s agricultural industry.