MHS students enjoy new Intro to Agriculture course

MHS junior Jose Martinez slices beef to make jerky for an Introduction to Agriculture project this week.

Agriculture is a leading industry in Iowa, and a new course at Marshalltown High School is bringing hands-on agricultural education to Bobcat students. 

MHS Introduction to Agriculture teacher Tara Leytham said students have enjoyed the coursework and activities, which focus on animal- and plant science. For one major project, student teams are using what they have learned this semester to prepare and sell homemade beef jerky.

“The whole point of this project is to teach entrepreneurship skills while hitting on the agricultural standards,” Leytham said.

Along with learning how to properly prepare beef, the students created marinade and seasoning recipes to give their jerky a unique flavor. The teams also planned which customer groups they would focus on to sell their product, created brand logos, and provided nutrition labels for product packaging. 

MHS junior Jose Martinez said he was interested in learning more about animals and agriculture when he signed up for the new course. 

“We learned more about the breeds and that there’s more than just ‘a cow,’” he said of the animal science unit. “I like it, it’s fun to learn about.” 

Sophomore April Wills said farming is important in her family. She is happy to have a course where she can learn more about agriculture.

 “I grew up on a farm, but I wasn’t able to get into agriculture because we moved … so this class really helps me to learn all of that stuff that I didn’t get to learn,” April said. “It’s a very fun class. You learn different things every day.” 

Introduction to Agriculture classmates Abriana Martinez, right, and Brecken Payne, left, prepare beef slices to be placed in their team’s homemade marinade.

Leytham said many students have expressed interest in careers working with animals; one of those students is freshman Abriana Martinez. 

“I saw that for the second semester we were doing animal science,” Abriana said. “I want to do something to do with animals, like a vet or something similar.” 

She said she has learned much about animal health and physiology this semester, and is excited for next semester’s animal science course, which will build upon the students concepts from Introduction to Agriculture.

As the agriculture curriculum grows, Leytham said she wants to have many course offerings which complement one another and provide several agriculture education pathways. Another agriculture program goal is to build business partnerships to create work-based learning opportunities for students.

The new MHS agriculture curriculum is off to a great start. Jose, April, and Abriana all said they would recommend the course to their friends and classmates.