Inspired to teach ag to others

Polk County Farm Bureau honors Paul Reed as the year’s outstanding agriculture teacher

PAUL REED’S LOVE for his agriculture program during high school translated into an agriculture teaching career that spanned more than three decades. Today, the recently retired Haines City High School teacher is the Polk County Farm Bureau’s 2016 Outstanding Ag Teacher of the Year award winner.

The Farm Bureau recognizes a top local agriculture teacher each year. This year’s award was presented to Reed on Oct. 11 during the Farm Bureau’s annual meeting in Bartow. “There are a lot of very good agriculture teachers in Polk County, and to be the one selected is a great honor,” Reed says.

Reed was an agriculture teacher for 34 years, serving 29 of those years at Haines City High School. He followed family to Florida via Oklahoma and Louisiana. A graduate of Cameron University in Lawton, Okla., he says he majored in agriculture education because he loved his high school program.

“My agriculture teacher in high school was a real influence in my life,” Reed says. “After I graduated, I didn’t know what I wanted to do and was too immature for college, so I joined the (U.S. military) service and later worked in industry at various jobs. Then I started to think what was it I really liked to do and agriculture came to mind, so I decided to become an agriculture teacher.”

Reed says that every year he taught approximately 200 to 300 students very detailed animal science classes at Haines City High.

“My classes were classified as a laboratory course, which entails a lot of hands-on working with animals in every way— from feeding to vaccinating, to grooming and showing,” he says. “The students usually purchase a pig or beef and learn production. They must keep records on it, check the animal every day, and learn animal health, becoming familiar with parasites to keep the animal healthy. Each student must be on top of the medical issues with the animal and recognize if something is wrong and to treat it or at least let me know about it.”

A student who prefers cattle is responsible for purchasing the animal by July and keeping it until January. Some students get their animal earlier than that, but the cattle weigh-in is in July. Pigs are purchased in September and held through January. Some students get cattle for the entire four years of the high school agriculture program. Students normally keep the animals at their home, but Haines City High School has some property, located about two miles north of the school, that can be used.

“I hope that when my students leave the class, they have learned that agriculture is important and hard work equals success,” Reed says. “I would like them get an education in agriculture. Today’s agriculture is more technical and more than just farming. There are lots of jobs available in agriculture, or related to agriculture, that include working with math, science, and public speaking. The students were always enhancing all their skills and using them in other school classes.”

Reed retired in September. He and his wife, Becky, have four children and four grandchildren.



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