Salsa made from homegrown jalapenos packs a lot more heat than a recipe made from store-bought peppers.
That's one thing junior David Bye learned from his agriculture class and FFA activities at John Marshall Mid High School.
The school, with grades 7 to 12 in north Oklahoma City, is more urban than rural. The campus is on NW 122 near the busy Lake Hefner Parkway.
Even so, agriculture classes and FFA are valuable to a student who may never plow a field, milk a cow or raise a calf, said Chris Ivy, one of the two agriculture teachers.
John Marshall's FFA chapter is among 352 from across Oklahoma expected to participate in this year's FFA Convention and Career Show on April 30 and May 1 at the Cox Convention Center.
Ivy said his students are excited about the convention, where they will focus on leadership workshops and activities.
His students get hands-on experience in the school greenhouse, growing flowers and vegetable plants, Ivy said. In early April, they held a plant sale to raise money for FFA programs and beautification of the campus.
Surrounding him in the greenhouse are flats of periwinkles, begonias, peppers, geraniums and ornamental sweet potato vines.
The students develop “a passion for their own home gardening. It's a skill they can take into their adult life” said Ivy, an agriculture education graduate of Oklahoma State University.
The students learn to keep an eye on the plants and “if something's wrong, how to fix it,” Ivy said.
“They really take pride in what they're doing. They take ownership.”
There's another perk to taking ag class, said Bye, an aspiring aircraft engineer who has started a garden at home. “You can get dirty at school.”
No animals are part of the program right now, but Ivy hopes to let eighth graders try hatching chickens sometime in the future.
Times have changed for FFA, which used to be the abbreviation for Future Farmers of America. Now, it's just FFA, the student organization for the agriculture education program, said Aaron Harrell, Ivy's fellow ag teacher at John Marshall.
Among other things, FFA teaches leadership skills, parliamentary procedure and how to conduct a meeting. “FFA isn't what it used to be — it's better,” said Harrell, who has taught horticulture and agriculture for 39 years.
“We're not trying to train farmers,” said Harrell, who also teaches welding.
Some information will help students at home, like learning what types of prime beef to buy and where it comes from, and whether it's better to start a lawn through sprigging or sodding.
His class also addresses types of agricultural careers that even urban students might consider.
He asks students to think about horses and the many things it takes to turn one into a racehorse. Someone must supply the feed, clean stalls, train and shoe the animals.
Other career possibilities are becoming a veterinarian and maintaining the grounds around the racetrack, Harrell said.
“We're looking for something they could do as a career,” he said.