AGRICULTURE HAS BEEN a way of life for Suzanne Churchwell, a science teacher at Plant City High School. Teaching has enabled Churchwell to combine her love of love of agriculture, science, and everyday life. “My brother and I took odd jobs picking peanuts, oranges, and strawberries, and we were able to save some money so we could buy what most kids wanted: a horse,” reflects Churchwell.
Churchwell adds, “It wasn’t always like this (during my childhood). We traveled all over Florida when I was smaller due to my father’s work. We finally settled in Turkey Creek during my teen years: This is when some of Churchwell’s most important memories were established. Spending days riding horseback with her brother, working in the fields, and learning to have respect for the outdoors were some of the happiest times for Churchwell.
After college, Churchwell secured a position with Kraft Foods in the Citrus Division and worked there for a few years before deciding to go into teaching.
Churchwell’s real agriculture experience began when her three children — Alicia, Joshua, and Serena — became interested in cows. When her oldest, Alicia, was nine she wanted to show in the dairy division, so the family purchased three heifers. Churchwell’s two younger children were just as interested in cows. “I can remember my youngest, Serena, when she was only three years old walking around the show barn combing the tails of the cows,” Churchwell says.
All three children were well on their way with starting their own herds at a young age. With the expense of buying feed, another source of income had to be procured. As the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” so a dairy farm was established in order to maintain the show cows.
The dairy farm was set up for the main purpose of milking show cows. Later, commercial milkers were added, and 70 to 85 head were being milked daily. The children helped with feeding, milking, and any chore that needed to be done.
With Churchwell’s children becoming more involved with showing dairy cows, she became more excited about agriculture herself. The family became members of 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA). The mom-of-three-children-turned-dairy-farmer eventually became a chaperone for the contests and a coach for the Florida 4-H Dairy Quiz Bowl Team. “I will always look back with fond memories of showing dairy cows and coaching the quiz bowl. I learned a lot, the kids learned a lot, and we all had so much fun,” she comments.
Churchwell has taught science at Plant City High School for most of her career. Having the knowledge in citrus and dairy industries, she is able to combine those valuable assets in the classroom. “I want my students to know that science is not just a subject they have to take in school. I want them to know that it is everywhere and applied in all parts of our lives,” Churchwell continues. “I am very passionate about teaching and the dairy industry. I do it for the kids and hope to instill some of the love that I feel.”
article by DALE BLISS
Posted May 15, 2012