Students digging into ag education at Sardis secondary school

The agriculture program at Sardis secondary partners with UFV to give Chilliwack students the upper edge for post secondary

Students involved in the agricultural program at Sardis secondary get planters ready for the program's annual Mother's Day sale.

Students involved in the agricultural program at Sardis secondary get planters ready for the program's annual Mother's Day sale.

Sardis secondary students are literally digging into their studies.

The school has been offering agricultural programming for three decades, but a new innovative course is allowing students to get even more hands-on learning as they work toward graduation.

Teachers Joe Massie and Tania Toth are offering new double blocked courses every morning that combine science and agriculture.

Students in Science 10/ Agriculture 11 will spend time at the school’s five-acre farm learning about field crop production, while in class they’ll tackle ag-related science topics like genetics, chemistry, soil composition, energy, space, and sustainability of agriculture, forestry and fisheries in B.C.

For those moving up to the Agriculture 12 double block, the course even comes with university credits. The school was already partnered with the University of the Fraser Valley’s agriculture program. But now, they’ve formalized that partnership and graduating students will arrive at their chosen post-secondary school with three credits. The course will be taught in part by UFV professor Tom Baumann.

Those are in addition to the Ag 11 and 12 courses being offered.

Emma Skaaning, a Grade 11 student at Sardis, is finding all the agricultural education a perfect fit for her future plans.

“This will help me get a start in university,” she says.

The ag courses at Sardis will help her learn more about both agriculture and horticulture, and help her “narrow down” her options going into post-secondary.

As an animal lover, Skaaning had once thought she’d grow up to be a veterinarian. But now she says she’s fairly certain she wants to work in the beef or dairy industry. The days of starting her own farm are likely over, she explains. With the large scale farming operations becoming the new normal in the industry, she is focusing instead on finding a good job. And she knows they’re out there.

She’s already enrolled in Agriculture 11, where they learn about greenhouses and horticulture. It’s a new piece of the ag puzzle for Skaaning.

She’s also using her night time and weekend job as a night shift milker toward Work Experience credits, putting her that much closer to graduation.

It’s not easy work. In addition to her course load, Skaaning works until about dinner time on school nights. On the weekends, she’s at the farm and working by 3:30 a.m. for a four-hour shift.

A lot of students will be thinking about their future right now. It’s course selection time across the district, and the choices available at each school are as diverse as the students they’re aimed at. At Sardis secondary, the ag program has turned out to be very popular.

It’s open to students from all over Chilliwack, and because the two classes are lumped together (double blocked) in the morning, students could potentially travel back to their home school at the lunch hour for the remainder of their classes.

“Not every school can offer every program,” Massie says. He wants students across the district to be aware of what they’re offering.

Right now, students are busy tending to the flower baskets they’ll be selling off for their annual Mother’s Day sale. And soon they’ll be out in the fields of the school’s farm plotting out rows upon rows of vegetables for their Community Supported Agriculture program, in which individuals can sign up to purchase weekly baskets of fresh, locally-grown produce. This will be the school’s second season of running the CSA program, Massie says.

That arm of the ag program has really driven home the value of food security, Massie says.

“It’s about knowing what’s going into your food,” he says.

Students and parents interested in any of the agriculture programs can contact either teacher at or





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