By Charlie Finnerty | [email protected]
New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and Council Member James F. Gennaro announced a $5 million allocation of capital funds to John Bowne High School’s agricultural program in a press conference at the Flushing school on Monday, November 20.
The agricultural program dates back to 1917 when young New Yorkers were recruited to fill positions on farms upstate when workers were recruited to fight in World War I. Since then, the program has grown into a nationally recognized hub for agricultural education on the school’s campus in the heart of Queens with over 500 current students and eight teachers managing four acres of poultry, livestock, animal laboratories, greenhouses, orchards and field crops.
Assistant Principal of Agriculture Patrycja Zbrzezny said the financial support from city council will fuel the agricultural program for years to come.
“It is with great pleasure and heartfelt appreciation that I extend our deepest thanks to Councilmember Gennaro, and Speaker Adams for the extraordinary generosity of donating the $5 million in our historic school farm,” Zbrzezny said. “The impact of this donation extends beyond the fences of our farm. With this significant support. We can now envision a future where innovation and sustainability flourish in our agriculture education program.”
Senior Melissa Pratt said the unique position of John Bowne’s program in New York City provides unique opportunities for students to learn about hydroponics and micro farming operations that might not be seen in the typical agricultural programs in more rural parts of the country. Pratt pointed out that, as the agricultural industry in the United States changes, the techniques and tools for small-scale farming taught at John Bowne are increasingly important.
“The [agriculture] program has helped us build on urban agriculture,” Pratt said. “There’s a big difference with people from Texas or from Florida or even in New York outside of the city. Agriculture is much different with us compared to them. We have a much smaller area but we still get to do all that hands-on learning to understand and have a better idea of how the future might look for us as a whole with a lot of farmland being cut down.”
Senior Aniyah Findlay Thomas said her work with animals and farming at John Bowne has given her a sense of purpose and direction since starting high school.
“Growing up, I very much didn’t know what I wanted to do. You know, you want to be a doctor, a scientist, an astronaut,” Findlay Thomas said. “I feel like I really didn’t discover what I wanted to be until I reached high school. This program has done wonders for me.”
Zoe Valencia said her time at the agricultural program has inspired her to pursue a career as a veterinarian.
“I didn’t know I wanted to be doing something in agriculture in the future until I got here at Bowne,” Valencia said. “It helps us develop traits that help us in certain careers. For example, I want to be a veterinarian in the future, and being in [the Veterinary Science Club] I’ve been able to learn about procedures and terms that are actually used in the veterinary world.”
Sophomore Maria Rivera said in addition to the skills learned through the agricultural program, she has found working with the animals to be a therapeutic outlet.
“Just being out here working with the smaller animals or the barn animals, it’s a lot but it’s honestly very therapeutic. It brings comfort to me,” Rivera said. “Just being in this school, it has kinda opened new doors for me.”
The students also emphasized that the program teaches a wide array of skills beyond farming, from math and sciences to law to photography and more.
“Being here has helped us broaden our horizons. It’s not just farming,” Pratt said. “There’s a whole bunch of different aspects. There’s aquaculture hydroponics, there’s different law parts to it, there’s reporters, photographers, different stuff like that which has just opened everybody’s eyes. There’s much bigger things than just working with animals.”