Agri-Business and Sciences Academy Overview
Agriculture and related industries provide great power to the economic engines in Polk County and in Florida. Agriculture is a $100 billion industry in Florida and employs nearly 1 million people in a wide variety of traditional and technological jobs. Florida produces nearly 300 commodities during its year-round growing season. The state has approximately 47,500 working farms, encompassing more than 9.25 million of the state’s nearly 35 million acres of land. (Source: National Association of State Departments of Agriculture) In Polk County alone, food and fiber sales total $4.5 billion annually and create approximately 35,400 jobs. The agribusiness impact in Polk is $2.8 billion in annual sales and approximately 15,479 jobs. The agriculture production impact is $406 million annually, with support for approximately 11,040 jobs. Green groves, open pastures and other agricultural lands cover 52 percent of Polk County. Polk has 626,634 acres of agricultural land, ranking it second among Florida counties, and 3,114 farms, with the average farm being 201 acres. Citrus covers 95,050 acres in Polk, ranking it first in the state in that category. (Source: Polk County Farm Bureau) The Florida Citrus Commission, the Florida Citrus Mutual growers association and the Florida Fertilizer & Agrichemical Association are each based in Polk County. The county also is a major operating center for The Mosaic Company, the world’s leading producer of concentrated phosphate and potash crop nutrients. Lastly, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has offices in Winter Haven.
What they’re saying about the WHHS Agribusiness and Sciences Academy...
T. Michael Stavres (city of Winter Haven Community Services director, PEP board member and chairman of academy committee): “The goal of the (high school) academies is to create learning communities that target very specific professional career paths, to spark interest in students beyond the regular curriculum.” … “What’s unique about this proposal is that no other career academy in the county is similar in structure and content.” … “The opportunity for a variety of career paths is so much greater than other academies in the county.” … “When people think of agriculture, many think of citrus or cattle, but there are so many technologies related to it, (from) pharmaceuticals to aquaculture, logistics to land management, alternative energy to cell cloning.” … “Think about the impact that agriculture has on our own community; it’s rooted right here in Winter Haven.” “There’s a lot of interest in the academy; the Florida Farm Bureau is extremely interested, as is the (state) Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and local agri-business leaders.”
Gina Williams (principal, Winter Haven High School): “I do believe we have a group of students here at Winter Haven High School who have a desire to enter into a field of agribusiness, and I believe that the community’s support, the support of business and industry officials and the dedication of all those working on it will make it a highly effective academy.”
David G. Byrd (teacher resource specialist for programs including agriscience, food and natural resources, Polk County Public Schools): “We need to develop an academy at Winter Haven High School where the students are taught not only about our agricultural products but also about agriculture business — the business end of it.” … He cited marketing, sales, “dealing with the commodities we produce in Polk County” and global marketing. “Dole/Sunny Ridge (Farm) in Winter Haven, they sell those (berries) all over the world.” “Students need to be aware not just about producing these products but the marketing, bookkeeping and financial end of it.” … Through this academy, he said, students can be exposed to other facets of the agriculture industry, such as golf course maintenance (“There are jobs available in the golf course industry.”), machinery and servicing machinery, and pesticide and fertilizer application. … “Students probably are familiar with spreading some fertilizer or taking a hose and spraying down some pesticides in their yard, but they need to be exposed to the commercial aspect of all of that.”
Nelson Kirkland (publisher, Central Florida Ag News [a Central Florida Media Group magazine] and academy project liaison): “This is an academy where science and agriculture overlap. Think white lab coats and ethanol, not just citrus or farming.” … In our region, “Algae is turned into ethanol. Eucalyptus trees will power the eco-generation power plant in Fort Meade and Pongamia trees are being propagated by the tens of thousands to serve as a substance for creating Jet Fuel.” … “Additionally, a recent study of the top 100 markets in America showed that the Lakeland/Winter Haven metro area unemployment rate for those with High school or less education stood at 17.6% or tenth worst in the nation and those with a college degree stood at a rate of 4.7% and 45th in the nation. This underscores clearly that a college prep career academy focused on one of our largest industries here makes clear sense. This (academy) could be used as a model for other schools in the state to emulate.” “Jobs are plentiful in this industry.”