MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

February 27, 2013

School ag program steeped in history


— By Wendy Burton

Times Editor

Fort Gibson schools began an agricultural program in 1949, a program that has kept growing and become a large part of the community.

Saturday saw the livestock show at Fort Gibson High School filled with FFA students and 4-H students, their animals and their families and friends.

Among those watching Saturday’s show was John Harrison, the man whom the school’s field house is named and who began the vocational-agricultural program back more than 60 years ago.

“It’s a lot different than what it was when we started,” Harrison said. “We had our show in an old building years ago down in town.”

Today, the school has its own barn with stalls for animals on one side and tools for learning welding, machining and more on the other.

One of the announcers at Saturday’s show was one of Harrison’s first students, too.

“Budo Perry up there, he was one of my students,” Harrison said. “This program has really grown, and these two instructors are doing a really good job.”

The school’s agricultural program is led by Bryan Craig and Joe Osborn, who were on hand Saturday helping students show their goats and pigs.

The FFA program’s secretary, student Payton Fore, was also on hand getting ready to show her 275-pound Yorkshire.

Payton said the program at Fort Gibson High School is important to many students, with about 170 students in agricultural classes, not all of them who show animals.

It’s also an especially important program for her, she said.

“I want to be an ag teacher,” said Payton, who has been in the program for several years. “There’s no way I can live without it. So, I definitely want to go to college for that.”

Fore said when she got her pig in October it weighed in at 39 pounds. Saturday, the pig weighed in at 275.

“She’s on a diet now, because she’s getting close to being overweight for shows,” Payton said. “Shows are divided into classes, because there’s so many different types of pigs. Each class is broken down into a weight class.”

Many students, such as Payton, raise their animals at the barn at the high school, feeding them during class and after school and using the guidance Osborn and Craig provide, she said.

“It’s easier to keep it here, not just for the kids who live in town, but because Mr. Craig and Mr. Osborn are here where they can tell you what you need to improve on or sometimes just to tell you that you need to change your wood chips in the barn.”

Students show sheep, goats, pigs and cattle. Raising the animals requires a lot of work, a lot of money and a lot of commitment, Payton said.

Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or wburton@muskogeephoenix.com.