Valdosta Daily Times

July 17, 2013

A teacher in love with his subject

Kristin Finney
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — When it comes to agricultural education, Lowndes County has a lot to offer. One person helping to grow and encourage that education is Andy Harrison, agriculture instructor at Pine Grove Middle School.

Harrison has been teaching for 12 years and is about to enter year 13. He spent eight years at Lowndes High School and he is going into his fifth year at Pine Grove. Though education wasn’t his original plan following college, he has certainly made a difference during his time teaching.

His love of agriculture began when Harrison was young.

“I guess it started when I was a child. My daddy was always growing something and I would buy a pack of corn seed and try to grow corn in the garden. We had some friends that had a big farm and grew produce and my brother and I spent a lot of time with them during the summer and when I would visit my great-aunt and uncle, there wasn’t much to do and we would go out and play on the farm. It’s kind of always been an interest. I’ve always been interested in the whole aspect of producing food and everything involved in agriculture.”

After high school, Harrison decided to channel his love of agriculture in his studies. He went to school at the University of Georgia where he received a bachelor’s in animal science. After college he worked for a pure-bred cattle farm for many years.

He recalled, “Because of the cattle economy at the time, I decided I needed to go in a different direction. Then I went into ag sales and was in that for over 20 years.”

Following the consolidation in the agriculture industry, Harrison was faced with the realization that in order for him to continue working in the agriculture business, he would have to move to the Midwest.

“At the time, my oldest son was in college and my youngest one was getting ready to start college. With the HOPE Scholarship available, the economics didn’t work out to where we could move out there where we would know nobody.”

Thanks to the encouragement of a friend who always told him that he should teach agriculture, Harrison explained, “I started looking at it, and I said, well, this is a way I can stay involved in agriculture. And maybe share some of what I had gotten to see over the years with young people.”  

After getting a job at LHS, Harrison returned to UGA to receive his master’s in agriculture education, and also his education specialist from Valdosta State University. Since that time, Harrison has been educating his students about the industry that he loves and he has loved teaching it.

“I think when you have a young person that takes on something that they have never done before and have success with it. That is one of the best parts. The look on their face when they know they have done what they were suppose to do,” said Harrison.

He recalled several students whom he has taught through the years. He recalled a 10th-grade student who won showmanship two years in a row having never shown before, beating out people who had been showing for years.

While teaching agriculture, Harrison has had students involved in FFA quizzes, livestock judging, floriculture, nursery landscape and parliamentary procedure. He hopes to eventually get them involved with forestry and poultry judging.

“The more opportunities we give them to get involved, the more likely they are to find something they love. You never know when you are going to turn a light on in them,” explained Harrison.

“Agriculture is a way of life. What we do is something that you have to have a passion for. We are one generation away from not having farmers and that’s scary. We have got to get young people interested and get them to understand where their food comes from and that it doesn’t just come from a grocery store, but that it comes from a farmer somewhere. A lot of grown-ups don’t understand that either. I wish more of the community would take interest in what’s going on here. We have a great program in Lowndes County. People should come see what the kids are doing and support them.”

Anyone interested in supporting the agriculture program in Lowndes can do so through the FFA Alumni Association, which is open to everyone, not just past FFA members and also through the canning plant or the Pine Grove greenhouse.

Harrison has been married to his wife, Jill, for 38 years. They have three children: Brad, Scott and Laura.