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State lawmakers push bill for more agriculture education

Assemblyman John Lemondes advocates for agriculture education in schools
Jessica Cain
Assemblyman John Lemondes advocates for agriculture education in schools

A local assemblyman is pushing a bill to help students learn more about where their food comes from and possibly introduce them to a future career.

AssemblymanJohn Lemondes (R-Lafayette), who operates a farm, is joining with western New York Senator George Borrello (R-Sunset Bay) to introduce the legislation that would require publicly-funded schools to provide in-depth instruction on agriculture.

Lemondes said the goal would be to teach students about New York’s largest industry at least three times: in elementary school, middle school, and high school.

"So that when we graduate 18-year-olds, they know a little bit more about where their food and fiber came from,” said Lemondes. “So that they understand that their cotton socks came off of a family farm, and that their wool shirt came off of a family farm."

Elsa Hull, 15, is already benefitting from agriculture education. She dreams of one day becoming a farmer or agriculture educator, and she already has a lot of experience.

"I've been in 4H for almost nine years, showing cattle, showing dairy, two years showing beef," said Hull.

Lafayette School District Superintendent Jeremy Belfield said he thinks the bill is a good idea. He said local farms have played a critical role for families in his district, and students should be aware of that.

"During the pandemic, we saw local farmers meeting the basic needs of our families in Lafayette by donating items such as milk, eggs, and assisting schools in the Southern Hills with drive through food giveaways," said Belfield.

Auburn Enlarged City School District Superintendent Jeffrey Pirozzolo said he likes that the bill would help introduce students to a variety of different careers.

"When you look at Ag Ed, it opens up multiple different pathways,” said Pirozzolo. “I think with getting the basic knowledge and the understanding and building that into pathways, this is going to be very beneficial."

Lemondes said at this time, the bill does not include additional funding to implement the new programming, but it does give school districts flexibility on how they want to set it up.

"We would expect them to come back to us in the next budget cycle and say, 'this is what we need to implement that,'" said Lemondes.

The bill’s supporters also hope districts would use existing resources like Future Farmers of Americaor the New York Farm Bureauto teach students more about farming.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.