A new course that will teach and train high school students to open an agricultural business is coming to Frederick next spring, according to Frederick County Public Schools officials.

The agricultural business course will combine business basics and management with agricultural concepts, teaching students in both a classroom setting and in the field with hands-on training.

It will be a college course for FCPS high school seniors and qualifying juniors, said Kristine Pearl, a supervisor at the Career and Technology Center in Frederick.

“The course allows students that are college bound ... to get six credits from FCC in an agriculture-related field while also getting credit in high school,” Pearl said.

Developed by the Career and Technology Center and Frederick Community College, the course fills a gap in agricultural business education for students looking to go into the agricultural field, according to Diane Herndon, who will help coordinate and teach the class.

“It’s geared toward students who have maxed out the agricultural opportunities at their home schools,” said Herndon, the environmental landscape and design management instructor at CTC.

The first half of the course will be an accelerated version of a course already offered at FCC called Entrepreneurship and Small Business Enterprise. During this time, students will learn how to start an agricultural business, said Marty Crabbs, who teaches business at the community college.

“It’s a standard business course,” Crabbs said. The only difference is that it will have an agricultural theme.

The second half of the semester will be the Introduction to Agribusiness course, which will incorporate field trips to local agribusinesses and gaining experience in areas such as beekeeping, Herndon said.

A nearly $25,000 grant from the Rural Maryland Council will go toward startup costs for the course such as supplies, textbooks and FCC tuition. The money will also fund students projects, including an apiary, cut-flower production and a small-plot vegetable operation, according to Herndon.

“It really is a tremendous opportunity for students,” Herndon said. “If you’re going to pay $150 and get six college credits, that’s a great opportunity.”

Dave Esworthy, who serves on several advisory councils for educational facilities, said he is contacting potential agribusinesses for possible field trip destinations and educational opportunities for the students enrolled in the course.

Esworthy, the Frederick County market president of First United Bank & Trust, said he helped apply for the Rural Maryland Council grant, a process that took several months.

The Rural Maryland Council’s executive director, Charlotte Davis, said she was impressed by the application, especially since the course addressed educating and training the next generation in agriculture.

“We do a good job of teaching the science and production side of agriculture, but we generally don’t teach a lot about the business and entrepreneurship side of it and this program does that,” Davis said.

Students are encouraged to sign up for the agricultural business course before Jan. 25, the first day of the spring semester. The class is capped at 15, and there’s already been some interest.

“There’s been a lot of buzz about it,” Herndon said. “After the FindItFirst email came out, my email was inundated with folks looking for more information.”

Esworthy praised the various schools and groups for working together to make the course a reality.

The partnership between FCPS and FCC “is really an important relationship that really can help our students over the long term,” he said.

Follow Paige Jones on Twitter: @paigeleejones.

Paige Jones covers business and biotech in Frederick County. She started at the paper in 2014 as a nighttime crime reporter before switching to business. A Kansas transplant in Maryland, she enjoys exploring the East Coast in her free time.

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