ALL ABOUT THE AG-'97 MaKayla LaRue sits at her desk in her ag classroom at Independence High School. The reimplemented agriculture program at IHS has seen growth in the last year. Taina Copeland | Staff Photo
ALL ABOUT THE AG-'97 MaKayla LaRue sits at her desk in her ag classroom at Independence High School. The reimplemented agriculture program at IHS has seen growth in the last year. Taina Copeland | Staff Photo
It may only be the third year of the newest agriculture program at Independence High School but with all the excitement and involvement there has been, it's like the program has always been in place. Ag instructor MaKayla LaRue said the program is in it's third year as two years ago it began as a part-time program with three classes in the afternoon and the beginning of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter.
"Then last year they bumped the program up to full-time and hired me," she said. LaRue said membership the first year was about 30 or 40, last year they had 33 and this year the membership is not concrete at this time as they are still counting the numbers. But the program is growing.\
"Student-wise last year I ended with about 70 in my classes in spring time and this year in the fall, I'm right at 84," she stated proudly. "There is definitely interest in the program." 
The program at IHS sort of fell apart in the 1960s and 1970s as the general mind set moved to pushing more white collar jobs instead of blue collar jobs. With the change of mind set in the new millennium, teaching has moved back to vocational, or blue collar, jobs. Therefore, interest has returned in farming and agriculture, and the more blue collar jobs. "I came from a family farm and a family machine shop business," LaRue explained. "My dad is a machinist and a farmer. My mom started out as an emergency room registered nurse but then she transitioned to business owner, secretary and stay-at-home mom which she said is the toughest job she ever had. My dad's mentality is to be a super hard worker."
She said her parents taught her that yes, you do have to have the doctors and lawyers and those types of occupations. "But you still need the people to make the cars and to make the parts for everything," LaRue said. She added we also need the people to keep all those parts running.
LaRue explained the classes she teaches. "I have three classes of Introduction to Agriculture which is the first class in the pathway. I teach a little bit of everything but start with 'What is agriculture?' We try to circle around to food, fiber and fuel, trying to focus on that entity," she stated. "We even talk about production and go over other industries which support AG such as research and development, transportation, processing, marketing '85 those are the four major ones."
LaRue said less than 2 percent of the American population is involved with production in AG which involves farmhands, ranchers, farmers \'97 those that are hands-on everyday. "Then closer to 49 percent of the American population is within the agribusiness," she said. "I try to show my students that shift and try to open their eyes a little bit. Friday we wrapped up our soil science unit because everything starts from the ground up whether it's crops or if you are feeding livestock or trying to build buildings. It all starts from the ground up so I try to teach them different horizons, erosions, land class capabilities \'85 a little bit of everything."
Communications is the next subject which teaches students how to be a good speaker and why it's important. "That is honestly my most intimidating unit because a lot of people do not like to public speak," she said with a chuckle. "I try to tell them that you don't have to have an auditorium of 300 people to technically be a speaker."
The FFA program is doing well in it's inception receiving several accolades at events last season. She feels the variety on the list of items to become involved in help with students being interested. "Entomology is about insects, floriculture is flowers and plants and landscaping can be included," LaRue said. "I have a lot of competitive kids and they have to work for it. They have to come in and practice and then they have to go to the contests. There have been some contests we get our butt kicked but the students say they learn so much and want to compete the next year so they can do better."
She added, "It builds up that fire to make them want to work and improve."
LaRue is from the Chanute area but graduated from Erie High School as they had an agriculture program and Chanute did not. She attended Allen County Community College where she received her Associate's degree then transferred to Kansas State University where she majored in Ag Ed with a minor in animal science and a minor in horticulture.
Events the FFA members participate in include: Greenhand Conference, Speech/Ag Management/Food Science, Welding, K-State Ag Ed Club Speech Contest, Communications/Job Interview/Meats, Ag Sales/Dairy Cattle/Poultry, Vet Science, Environthon, District Banquet, State CDEs and the State Convention.