300 hands join together to renovate school barn

In 1946 the people of a Climax pulled together to put up a cattle barn on J.D. Cheek’s farm. And pull together they did again 64 years later when, on a bright April weekend, scores of them gathered to spiff up the barn and make it part of Providence Grove High School’s agricultural education program.

The project was made possible by a national American Idol-style online voting contest that was part of Campbell’s Soup Co.’s “Help Grow Your Soup” campaign, explained Amy Kidd, an agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at the school. Five notable barns through the United States were selected to be renovated and preserved.

Students prepare to work on restoring the facility in which they will learn the hands-on skills taught in animal science classes.

While Kidd was working with the state FFA officers to set up an alumni chapter for the brand new Randolph County school, they told her about the contest, and they – as well as state agricultural education coordinator Joshua Bledsoe and state FFA coordinator Jason Davis, both of NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences – rallied to get out the vote.

In all, more than 375,000 votes were cast, with the Providence Grove project capturing about 93,000 votes.

Community support was evident during the two-day work weekend, when “there were well over 300 hands that touched the barn in one way, shape or form. They were all volunteers and students,” said Kidd, who earned two degrees from CALS – a bachelor’s in animal science in 1997 and a master’s in agricultural education in 1999.

“We actually changed the barn from a drab, old gray barn to a beautiful red barn with white trim,” she said. “We painted it, replaced some floorboards in the loft, put up a fence, replaced windows and put on doors.”

The finished product is revealed after the two-day work weekend, when these community members joined forces to renovate the barn.

Kidd’s goal is, starting in May, to house animals – goats, a bottle-fed calf, a miniature horse, rabbits and guinea pigs. She said that the barn will be a centerpiece for incorporating hands-on learning into an agricultural education program that reaches 170 students, including 157 FFA members.

“Our students need a facility in which they can learn the hands-on skills taught in the animal science classes. In addition, the barn also provides a space in which the area third graders come to visit the high school to learn about the origin of food in an activity we call ‘Fun on the Farm,’” she said.

Helping remind people of where their food comes from was one of the contest’s objectives, said Eric Christianson of Campbell’s. The barns “are a reminder of the importance of the agriculture industry to our economy and generations of Americans,” he said.

The company donated $500,000 to national FFA to support educational programs that help students explore the many career opportunities available in modern agriculture. The Randolph County Farm Bureau also was a large supporter financially for the Providence Grove High project. –– Dee  Shore

See more photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ffaalumni/sets/72157623853824898/

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