Redmond students to learn grafting

Agricultural science program earns grant

By Tyler Leeds / The Bulletin

Published Jan 18, 2014 at 12:01AM

Redmond High School’s agricultural science program is venturing into tree grafting with the help of a grant from the Redmond Garden Club.

The agricultural program, which began in the 1920s, is the school’s oldest and largest career-training track, including nearly 400 students. The $750 grant will jump start a program where students graft fruit and nut trees, a process where tissue from one plant is cultivated on another plant, fusing the two together. Lance Hill, Redmond High School’s agricultural science teacher, hopes the project will turn into a profitable enterprise for the program.

“It will complement the agriculture business side of our program, as we will be responsible for working with growers outside Central Oregon, and maybe even shipping our stock to buyers in China or Japan, where most plants from the Northwest go,” Hill said. “But it will also be a way to teach plant science, asking kids questions such as, why can we do this work with only a certain genus of trees?”

Tree grafting won’t be the only money-making venture for the program, as students currently sell flowers, vegetables and herbs at a May fundraiser, typically earning $7,000 each year. Given the diverse activities undertaken by students in the program, Hill believes there is a misconception concerning what constitutes agricultural education.

“People think it’s all cows and plows, but I teach pre-vet classes and prepare students to go into agricultural business. So I teach leadership and soft skills, too, in addition to science,” Hill said. “It’s true, I do teach about cows and plows, but as long as you need to eat, I need to teach kids how to farm.”

Hill, 44, now in his fifth year teaching at Redmond, is himself a product of the Redmond High School agriculture program. When Hill joined the school’s staff, he replaced Ted Tesconi, who had been at Redmond High School three decades and taught Hill when he was a student.

“When I got here, I knew I wanted to join the program, because my dad and grandpa always had such a passion for it,” said Krystalynn Crawford, 16, a junior in the program. “My dad went through it, but it’s helped me with my own project. I’m right now working on taking pure-bred cattle to shows.”

Another junior, 17-year-old Elizabeth Moss, said the program has given her the ability to help manage her family’s ranch, where they raise orchard grass hay.

“I’m going to be in charge of setting up with buyers and understanding what they need,” Moss said.

Both Crawford and Moss are involved in Future Farmers of America, which Hill leads at the high school. The Redmond High School chapter of the youth organization just received a $1,600 grant from the Oregon Department of Education and Oregon Career and Technical Education Student Leadership Foundation.

“Having the kids in FFA gives them the chance to make use of what they learn here in the classroom,” Hill said. “Students can bring animals to fair or work at a local vet clinic, showing how what I teach really benefits them outside of the school.”

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com