The Regenerative Agriculture program at Whitefish High School is greater than an academic class — it’s creating optimistic change in college students by encouraging entrepreneurship and serving to them uncover their very own value.
Three years in the past excessive school trainer Mark Casazza obtained the inexperienced mild to make his ardour grow to be his profession. He spent 27 years as a math trainer whereas working a program on the facet that employed college students to work each in development and on his household’s 700-acre ranch in Eureka. He has now morphed that facet venture right into a bustling class supplied to excessive school juniors and seniors.
“What I did on the weekends over the summer because I loved it, I now do here – my passion became my job,” Casazza mentioned.
In the Regenerative Agriculture program, Casazza sees himself extra as a job coach than a trainer. At the start of the school 12 months, college students within the class brainstorm tasks that they want to pursue. Students with related pursuits grow to be a gaggle and the venture they determine on is the main focus for the remainder of the 12 months and is run like a enterprise.
Through the Regenerative Agriculture class, college students have efficiently created companies together with promoting microgreens, advertising and marketing grass-finished beef and constructing a vegetable trailer to make use of for produce gross sales this summer season.
One scholar, senior Kenna Ferril, took on the accountability of overseeing all of the tasks and heading up advertising and marketing, web site design, creating shows and extra — all priceless expertise that he discovered on his personal by way of this class and a path he now needs to pursue after commencement.
“This class has singlehandedly helped me look at my future and figure out what I want to do with my life more than any of the other classes I’ve done in my entire high school experience,” Ferril mentioned.
The college students on this class have basically grow to be enterprise homeowners and have created their very own merchandise, manufacturing processes, advertising and marketing and gross sales; the scholars are also paid by way of a stipend from the school district whereas incomes school credit score. That is on the highest of Ferril’s listing of highlights from taking this course.
“I think the coolest thing for me is that kids are making money in school because that’s unheard of… we’re learning things and making money for it,” Ferril mentioned. “I think that’s amazing.”
The impartial tasks give college students the chance to be taught new expertise starting from product growth to on-line advertising and marketing administration. In the Regenerative Agriculture program, college students select the venture they’re most keen about and get to pursue that whereas seeing the creation of an actual enterprise right through.
And as these companies are created, the scholars really feel supported and inspired, and grow to be a household throughout the school.
“It’s more than just people that you work with and kids in a class – we’re a family,” Ferril says. “We can come together and talk about the things that matter.”
CASAZZA BEGAN pursuing a program that may assist children who have been dropping out of school discover goal by way of working onerous at a job. He began hiring college students from Whitefish High School who have been struggling and the scholars would work on the ranch or development.
“What I found was lots of times these kids that struggled in school, because they had a tough time sitting in a classroom, were actually amazing workers because they had so much energy,” Casazza recalled. “You get them out on a job site, and they were just excited to get to work.”
He skilled the scholars how to achieve success on a job website and would pay every scholar a special wage day by day based mostly on how nicely they carried out. The standards the wage was based mostly on included how nicely they paid consideration, security, angle and accountability.
“The strength of the program was I would pay every kid a different wage every day,” Casazza expressed, saying that the children would wish to learn the way they may earn more money after which would work more durable of their job.
“Money is an unimaginable motivator…” he added. “I found out if a kid really wanted to learn, I could turn them into a pretty strong worker in two weeks.”
For 9 years he independently ran this program on weekends and in the course of the summer season. In simply the previous three years it has lastly grow to be his major job at WHS.
“In my class, I teach students skills in construction, agriculture and business that are applicable long after high school,” he says.
When he first began this facet venture he might tackle 4 college students; subsequent 12 months the category could have 40 college students and it has doubled over the course of 1 12 months.
Additionally, the Regenerative Agriculture class is instructing college students expertise they’ll use after excessive school and in flip is filling a necessity in Whitefish as most companies are at the moment going through a workforce scarcity.
“We’re filling a job shortage in Whitefish; our goal is to fill over 40 jobs by next year in our community,” Casazza mentioned. “And it’s so needed for our community, for these kids to get out and learn a skill they want to do after high school, but also fill a need for Whitefish.”
ONE OF essentially the most intriguing enterprise concepts some college students within the Regenerative Agriculture program selected to tackle this 12 months is the grass-finished beef venture. Casazza has his personal portion of a 700-acre household ranch in Eureka and he’s been taking children up there for hands-on studying alternatives for years.
The college students go to the ranch on area journeys in addition to for summer season applications and find out about ranching — particularly the way to create a fantastic tasting grass-fed, grass-finished beef product that sells earlier than it even hits the market.
Casazza teaches the children a extra pure method to ranching and his cattle are free-range fenced by the previous school technique of salt blocks.
“It’s pretty cool – it’s the old style, there’s no fence,” he mentioned.
The beef produced by Casazza’s tried-and-true technique is from cows raised with out progress hormones, or antibiotics and are 100% grass-fed.
“It’s as healthy as wild game. It will actually raise your Omega-3s, raises your good fats and lowers your bad fat,” he mentioned.
As a part of the grass-finished beef venture, college students have had the chance to be taught this course of in addition to the way to butcher and promote the meat. They have marketed the merchandise to Markus Foods and Third Street Market amongst different native companies, all whereas getting paid as if it have been any common enterprise.
Additionally this 12 months the category began a meals depot license for the district which allowed the school district to purchase three steers and use the hamburger within the cafeteria. Then the district can promote the costlier cuts and in return, it pays for a superb portion of the meat to feed the children.
“We’ve really created an incredible product,” Casazza mentioned.
The program has seen nice success promoting the meat regionally, and in Markus Foods they also have a presentation taking part in that depicts how the scholars created the product.
Casazza has seen progress in all his college students all through the course of the 12 months, and is at all times in search of methods to enhance the lives of his college students by way of the program. This began out years in the past as a means to assist children struggling, generally in school and generally in life, and to this present day he stands by the identical rules of giving children one thing to deal with and care about.
“You just give them something that they’re passionate about, it changes their outlook,” he mentioned.
For extra details about the Regenerative Agriculture program and the way to purchase student-produced merchandise, go to https://whsregenerativeag.com/
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