Rep. Smith Learns about Biotech, Genetics with York FFA


If "Made in America" makes a comeback, it'll be on the farm with a bio-based economy, according to the head of the USDA.

Already, high school kids dig into biotechnology and genetics, not just in science class but FFA. Those things are a big part of the ag education curriculum at York High School, along with a new live animal lab.

"Truly this is a unique and different part of our program," ag teacher Jason Hirschfeld said.

It attracted the interest of Congressman Adrian Smith, who visited on Thursday.

He said, "It's bringing education and Nebraska's economy, our nation's economy, together." York's agricultural education is much more than welding and agronomy.

Hirschfeld said, "Our rabbit lab, we're studying genetics. We're making F1 crosses, F2 crosses, we're figuring ratios and predictability of what ear length, hair color the offspring will have."

And they combine that with hands-on work, raising small pets and pigs.

Sophomore Alli Riley said, "I live in the town, I didn't know anything about where meat came from or how we raise animals and being in ag classes, I've learned about where our food comes from and to appreciate what farmers do."

"When kids leave here they're going to excel at math and science and reading but we also want them to have appreciation of where our food comes from," Hirschfeld said.

And that's what impressed the congressman - the commitment to integrate science and technology into the ag curriculum.

Hirschfeld said, "Kids get excited when they get to see and do new things and this lab definitely provides new opportunity for kids."

Smith added, "Everyone has to eat, not only in Nebraska, but around the world, let's take advantage of that. That's one of the reasons I asked to be on the trade subcommittee of Ways and Means is to address these opportunities because 95 percent of the world's customers live outside our borders."

The kids raise hogs, even city kids, thanks to supporters who allow them to do that. Kids at York can also earn duel credit, getting college credit through their ag classes.