When teacher Joe Massie was asked to take over the agriculture program at Sardis secondary, he felt it was something he had to do to pay his dues.
He was a young physics teacher, just in his second year, and the agriculture program was a class no science teacher wanted.
Most students taking the course didn’t care about agriculture, they just wanted an easy science credit, said Massie, 32.
But the more he thought about the course, the more it made sense.
He grew up on farms, raised dairy cattle, beef cattle and chickens. He also spent eight years of his youth working part-time at a local greenhouse on Prest Road.
“I decided that rather than just accept that I’d be teaching the worst course at the school,” he said, “I could transform it into the best course at the school.”
With help from co-teacher Tania Toth, Massie has done just that.
The greenhouse on the school grounds, which for years was overgrown and dilapidated, was revamped under Massie’s guidance into an up-to-date facility with advanced technologies.
Students are now growing an assortment of vegetables, plants, flowers, as well as raising animals that have included layer chickens, broiler chickens, turkeys, and ducks.
Massie has also formed partnerships with local greenhouses, farms, and the University of the Fraser Valley’s agriculture department, which now offers Sardis secondary’s agriculture students up to three university credit courses while still in high school – giving them automatic entrance into UFV once graduated.
The course isn’t the only thing that’s changed, the style of students taking the course has as well.
They’re now interested in agriculture, excited to learn about the industry, asking about the differences between local and imported fare, and wondering about the different professions.
Good news for a community like Chilliwack that’s predominantly driven by agriculture.
These students could be Chilliwack’s future farmers, said Massie. They could be the ones boosting Chilliwack’s economy in years to come.
Massie has plans to expand the program in the near future.
He wants to utilize vacant school district land on Robertson Ave; further their partnership with UFV to include berry production, trial crops, and agriculture research; develop school and community gardens; and form partnerships with elementary schools in the district for the high school students to work with the younger students in further promoting agriculture.
All for the benefit of his students.
“Too many times I’ve overheard students say things like science is boring or how will this ever help me in real life, and unfortunately for many students, these statements come far too close to being true,” said Massie.
“As a science teacher, I believe it is my job to make sure my classes are far from boring and always applicable to my students lives.”