OUT OF THE BURBS: Brentsville HS Students Excel in Turf Management

| March 28, 2019 | 0 Comments | Education

Submitted By Prince William- Fairfax Farm Bureau

Television personality Mike Rowe’s mission is to change the way many people look at vocational jobs.

“…when did it make sense to say one size fits everybody? It never, ever, ever made sense to do that, and yet we’re still selling education the same way we sold it when you and I were in high school.”

Rowe will be happy to know that times are changing, and Brentsville District High School (BDHS) in Nokesville, Virginia, is on the forefront, offering a unique program that appeals to a wide range of Prince William County students.

Like Rowe, BDHS Principal Katherine Meints is passionate about setting up her students for long term success. In addition to the successful Cambridge Program, in which students earn college credits, Meints has been working to reshape the agriculture program to help expose students to a variety of career options.

As Prince William County grows, opportunities available to students continue to change. Twenty years ago, our county was home to 25 dairy farms and today only one remains. In the past three years, 5,000 acres of production agriculture has been converted to residential.  It would be tempting to think there are no longer agriculture careers in the area but rather the key is knowing where to look.

Four years ago, Meints set out to rebuild Brentsville’s overall agriculture program to one focused on turf management, landscaping and horticulture, reflecting a growing need and allowing students to enter the workforce immediately after graduation, or further pursue the field in college.

Brentsville’s agriculture teacher, Drew Miller, is a Virginia Tech graduate with a degree in Crops and Soil Science, minor in Horticulture and a Masters in Agriculture. He has worked for various golf clubs, MLB, and NFL teams in turf management. His goal is to combine what he learned from his collegiate studies and real life experiences to prepare his students for success.

BDHS students work on turf at the Tiger football field.

Being one of the only agriculture programs in Northern Virginia, universities like Penn State and Virginia Tech have taken notice. Students in the turf management program take yearly field trips to Blacksburg to learn more about Virginia Tech’s programs. Not only do they learn about the different degrees, but also see the developing technologies.

For example, the students saw how drones are used to map fields to detect disease. The data they collect is linked to machines that administer the spot treatments to save time and materials.

Chemistry, biology, math and more are used in turf management, horticulture and landscaping. Those with a passion for the outdoors and love of science have the opportunity to learn the trade and continue their studies to help innovation the field.

BDHS students work on turf at the Tiger football field.

Students at Brentsville not only see the possibilities but are getting hands-on experience.

Claire Lancaster a senior at BDHS, who plans to attend Virginia Tech’s college of agriculture in the fall, offered high praise for her turf management class.

“This class has opened up so many new opportunities and learning experiences. I have made so many friends and have learned skills that I can use in multiple aspects of my life. I have had opportunities to lead, and I am so proud of all of the work that we have accomplished including our two national honors,” Lancaster said.

The turf program is also making a name for itself working with local schools doing landscaping, growing plants for sale and even painting various high school team’s football fields in preparation for homecoming.

In 2018, Brentsville High School’s Donald Lambert Field was named “Field of the Year” by the Sports Turf Managers Association, the industry’s highest honor. This year, the program won a National Field Excellence from Pioneer Athletics.

Multiple students have internships at golf clubs, including the prestigious Robert Trent Jones golf course; sport teams, such as the Potomac Nationals, DC United and George Mason University; and local nurseries including Merrifield Gardens.

And Miller’s landscaping class even gives students the chance to see what it takes to run a business. Students prepare as though bidding on real projects. They work with staff to identify needs, draft a plan and present a bid.

Being a specialty program, students from other Prince William High School are able to take classes in the program. Miller’s goal is to build the first Turfgrass Research Center in a high school in the United States. By partnering with universities and companies such as Virginia Tech, Penn State, GameDay inc., and Pioneer Athletics, students will be able to run trials on different aspects of Turfgrass management.

Students are currently running a dormant sprigging trial for the prominent Turfgrass company in Northern Virginia, GameDay inc.

In order to achieve their goals, increase funding is necessary. One area of assistance is through the Prince William- Fairfax Farm Bureau, which has donated $20,000 and continued human resources support.

The Bureau’s goal is to support farmers through a number of programs to create an environment where agriculture can prosper in order to improve the lives of Virginians. Members understand that by growing the program, more students will gain the hands-on experience needed to care for our land, in PWC, and beyond.

To find out more ways you can support the turf program at Brentsville, you can follow them on Twitter at @turfgrasstiger. 

Their next plant sale is May 4-18 from 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Saturdays, located by Aden Road.

© 2019, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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