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The Impacts of Youth Ag on Mental Health and Rehabilitation

The year 2020 needs zero introduction. It was a year that will ring forever in our minds of how to execute instruction. We taught students through a computer screen and engaged with some students in person. 2020 brought change and more change for the changes made. Not only did instruction change but students changed. Some jumped at the opportunity to learn in the comfort of their own home and others struggled to find a way to make it work.

As a teacher during this time, I began seeing a trend. I no longer received emails or phone calls about students acting out in class. The conversation changed to: “John will not be on zoom today. He has been experiencing overwhelming anxiety and we will be establishing a plan to help guide him through the course work.”  “We will be reducing Maria’s course load. She will no longer be in your class.“  “Josh will not be in person today. He has been experiencing waves of depression and has not been sleeping at night. We will try and catch up on his class work asap.” 

The conversation that put it all into perspective. I had this student pre-covid. A student that was engaged in his school work. Straight A’s and goals to pursue honors and AP courses. The student jumped at every opportunity to be out at the school farm. No task was below them. They thrived off of learning more about animals and plants. This was one of my top go-to students when I needed a task completed on the farm. Covid-19 hit and this student no longer had an outlet. They withdrew from activities in class. They stopped showing up for virtual or in person learning. A straight A student was now facing failing their Junior year of high school.  I received an email early one morning. The email stated that this student would be placed in a medical facility and would not be attending school for a while. Updates would be given but administration would contact me on how to proceed with missing work and grading. 

Covid-19 pandemic eliminated funding for animals on our school farm and it was recommended that students would not be able to access the school farm for any reason. 

The story I shared about the student above was just one example of how removing a student from his “outlet” led to depression and further complications. That semester brought clarification to me about how important agriculture can play a role in a student’s high school career. The school farm is filled with animals and opportunities for students to engage in. The school greenhouse is filled with seasons of growth and raising of plants. 

This also brought on a new perspective to how I teach. Thankfully, school is in person now and students are back to learning about the opportunities we have on our school farm and horticulture department. Yet, the grand question kept playing over and over again in my mind.

 “How can youth involvement in agriculture projects such as gardening, animal training, and raising of animals lead to a positive change in mental health and rehabilitation?”

The future of agriculture is based on continuing the tradition. Youth is our answer to continuing that tradition. Youths’ answer to a positive change in their life could simply be from agriculture.

Terra Eby

Terra Eby

Terra Eby is a fourth year teacher at Sussex Central High School in Georgetown, DE. Teaching comes to Terra as a second career. She previously worked in the agriculture community for five years before completing the alternate routes to teacher certification program.Terra grew up very involved in 4-H. She always knew that agriculture was her career of choice but was lost in knowing what her fit was. After teaching for three years, she can finally say that she has found her home in agriculture education. She is currently teaching Animal Science and enjoys getting students involved on their school farm. Terra believes there are many “Agfits” or outfits in agriculture. Her goal is to show students how they can fit in agriculture. When Terra is not teaching she enjoys running, going out on her and her husband’s boat and each season of life. Terra and her husband Daniel will be welcoming a baby boy in October 2022. She says that things will be a little more of a balancing act between family and work but they are excited for the challenges ahead.

Participant School & Location:

Sussex Central High School, Georgetown, Delaware 

Below is an interactive presentation. You can click through and read slides to learn about managing mental health issues in agriculture youth.

Visit the Teacher’s Page for this project.