Flushing Queens has what seems to be one of the most progressive school districts in New York City with the addition of an all vegetarian menu at P.S. 224 and the The John Bowne High School. This local high school has an agriculture program where students take classes in plant and animal sciences in their freshman and sophomore years. After they have completed the classes they are given the opportunity to major in plant science or animal science for their junior and senior years. With the use of the school’s four-acre land laboratory housing a poultry house, large animal barn, exotic animal laboratory, greenhouse, orchard and field crops, students are offered an interdisciplinary environment that gives them a sense of what life is like on a farm.
The history of the program predates the Bowne school when during World War I, young men and women were recruited from New York City to work on farms upstate in order to fill positions of men fighting overseas. Many of these boys upon returning requested to learn more about agriculture. By coincidence, a local reform school with a farm was being closed in Queens and so in 1917 the agriculture program began. Initially the program was known as the “Newtown Aggies” which was an annex to Newtown High School.
Students who attend the summer agriculture program can learn the relationship between classroom instruction and learning by actually doing. Students develop work experience on the school’s land laboratory during their first summer of enrollment. About two hundred students are then placed in both city and farm jobs for their second and third summers.
The summer program has a three-fold approach to supervised agricultural experiences including a two-month program at the school on their land lab where students work on chores tending to the school crops, working in the poultry house, green house, tending our orchard and nursery crops, and working in the animal lab and large animal barn. Each student is also assigned a 15-foot by 15-foot plot of land on which to raise a vegetable and flower garden. Students get to keep all the produce and plants they raise on their plots and can count their harvest as earnings towards FFA awards.
Another summer program involves the placing of students on farms. Working with the New York State Department of Labor, Farm Cadet Program, students are placed on numerous farms throughout the state. They live and work with the farm family for the summer on dairy, horse, goat, and vegetable operations. The third component of Bowne’s summer program consists of urban internships. Students work at veterinary hospitals, florist shops, nurseries, garden centers, pet shops, zoos and aquariums.