Oliver to ‘grow Groton’ with agriculture education

Jason Oliver (center) proudly displays the Groton FFA charter at the first official meeting and special community event on Friday, Aug. 2.
Jason Oliver (center) proudly displays the Groton FFA charter at the first official meeting and special community event on Friday, Aug. 2.
Photo by Linda Competillo
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With a background in just about anything pertaining to agriculture education and beyond, Dr. Jason Oliver, Groton High School’s teacher for its exciting new program in agriculture, is making plans and gearing up to help students really “grow” their potential in the field this fall.

On Friday, Aug. 2, the Groton High School chapter of FFA (Future Farmers of America) was re-chartered after 47 years of dormancy at a special community event (see “Groton on the Inside,” Aug. 7 edition, for details). Oliver will also serve as advisor for the chapter.

Oliver said he believes there were approximately 30 members of the Groton FFA when it disbanded in 1972, and there are already 28 members poised and ready to get up and running with their new chapter this fall.

“That day was special – to see the community at all levels come together to support our fledgling ag program,” Oliver said when speaking about the charter meeting.

He also said he wants students to have the skills they need for success and to find value in revitalizing agriculture in Groton.

Born and raised in Union Springs, Oliver graduated from high school there in 2002 and headed off to earn his bachelor of science degree in forest biology at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York, which he successfully attained in 2006.

By the end of 2008, Oliver had also earned his master of science degree in ecology from the University of Maine, Ormond. Outside of classes, studying and research, Oliver also worked on an 11-acre vegetable farm in Dixmont, Maine, where he learned first-hand about what he refers to as “greenhouse stuff” – how to weed, grow things and then even sell them at a farmer’s market.

For about another year after that, Oliver worked full time on a 60-head Jersey cow farm but then returned to Syracuse to work as a consultant in a local firm that worked on indoor air quality. During that next year, Oliver’s time was spent testing and developing plans for remediation of mold and asbestos.

Due to his research in aerobiology back at SUNY, Oliver was sought out and offered a Ph.D. spot at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. That doctoral degree was conferred on Oliver after his success in connecting microbial communities to the function of bacteria filters.

All of that involved pigs and mulch and much more that Oliver would gladly explain to anyone who might like to hear more about it.

Oliver met and married his wife, Amy, around 2015. They moved to Groton in 2016 and started jobs in the area – Oliver at PRO-DAIRY in the College of Agriculture at Cornell University, specializing in manure management.

Oliver is also somewhat of an expert in growing mushrooms and owns and runs his own mushroom farm called “Back East Farm” in his “spare time.”

Given the “feathers” of agricultural diversity in Oliver’s proverbial quill, it is easy to see why he is a tremendous asset that Groton is blessed to have found.

In addition to the FFA advisement this fall, Oliver will be teaching an introduction to agriculture course as a science elective for any student in grade nine and above that will count as one science credit in the regular class schedule, but he will primarily be focused on one of the GCS STEAM Learning Center’s program clusters: Agriculture Technology.

The STEAM Center got underway this past school year with its initial four clusters, Building Trades, Computer Science, Engineering & Electronics, and Communications & Media Arts.

The “Ag Tech” taught by Oliver will be a two-year dual credit program that will provide 11th- and 12th-grade students with a hands-on approach to instruction in several areas of the agriculture industry, and while Groton students will be given preference, students from any other high school in the TST BOCES district may apply to attend with the proper clearances from their home schools.

This fall 2019 will begin with Animal Science as a dual three-credit program through SUNY Morrisville, with Food Systems following in spring 2020, Environmental Science in fall 2020 and Plant Science in spring 2021. The latter three will all earn three credits each through TC3.

Students who are beginning their junior year will have the opportunity to take all four components of the cluster, but any junior or senior student is eligible to take any component at any of the semesters offered.

Ag Tech, as well as any of the other programs offered at the STEAM Center, are geared toward industry-aligned, relevant and engaging curriculum incorporating college exploration, community partnerships that include internships and job shadows, field trips and more, and career exploration that will build soft skills into the mix in a real-world way.

Students who pursue agriculture will be prepared for a plethora of career opportunities such as livestock producer, herdsman, poultry farm manager, veterinarian or vet technician, zoo animal specialist, equine rehabilitator, sustainability specialist, food and drug inspector, food and meat scientist, dietician, development chef, food microbiologist, DEC officer, arborist, landscape architect and more.

Regardless of which of the five programs students may choose to enroll in, they will be able to explore industry in as realistic a setting as possible, with the hope that they will find their passion, develop their skills and knowledge and find themselves equipped for success in entering either a college program or the workforce.

For more information on any of these offerings, or even just to tour this state-of-the-art learning center, call the high school at 607-898-5301 or visit grotoncs.org.

Groton on the Inside appears weekly. Submit news ideas to Linda Competillo, lmc10@cornell.edu or 607-227-4922.

In brief:

Solar System Tour

Cornell University’s Spacecraft Planetary Imaging Facility is bringing its “Magic Planet” to the Groton Public Library at 1 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 29 for a solar system tour that promises fun and education for the entire family, and it is free to attend.

Groton Olde Home Days

The Cortland Old Timers Band will kick off Groton Olde Home Days at the Groton American Legion on Main Street from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22. Traditionally, yet unofficially, this well-known community band has been the “opening act” for Groton Olde Home Days for several years now.
This volunteer band has been performing in the central New York area for over 48 years and features musicians of all ages and skill levels, including a fair number of Groton residents. If you enjoy hearing a full brass, percussion and woodwind band playing show tunes, classical pieces, rousing Sousa marches and everything in between, you will not want to miss this concert!
When the Aug. 21 edition of “Groton on the Inside” is published, GOHD will be almost upon us, so be sure to come back for an extensive line-up of all the fun and exciting things the committee has been putting together for the festival.

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