Rotary grant to seed growth of FARMERS program

Mission, Texas- A new agricultural and horticulture program at Mission Consolidated Independent School District (CISD) will be growing a little bigger this year, thanks to a Global Grant from the Rotary Club. The district has learned that a grant application submitted through the Mission Rotary Club has been approved and is one of only a handful that get funded each year. The Growing Next Generation FARMERS grant will provide over $50,000 in support of expanding the reach and resources of the district’s new FARMERS (Farmers, Agriculturists, Ranchers, Machinists, Engineers, Researchers, Suppliers) program. 

“We are very excited to be able to partner with Mission CISD on this project,” said Elaine Hernandez, past-president of the Rotary Club of Mission. “We are going to be able to help support the growth of the district’s FARMERS program to serve more students, and potentially expand support for addressing food insecurity in the area at the same time.” 

“The long range impacts of this grant on the lives of the participating students and their families cannot only lead to better career exploration and opportunities, but also help address the needs of local families in feeding their families,” explained Dr. Carol G. Perez, superintendent of Mission CISD. “Agri-science continues to be a strong career growth opportunity, and can also help students and families learn how just a small garden can help feed their families, and only an acre of land can be used to generate income. Plus, fruits and vegetables grown by students in the program can help local food pantry efforts.”

The grant will be used to purchase equipment that students will utilize at the new Mission CISD Agriculture Science Labs that are currently being developed on several acres of citrus groves recently purchased by the district. High school students and students in the district’s 18+ TRITON program are two of the primary student groups who will benefit through the support of courses like: Horticulture Science, Greenhouse Operation and Production, Advanced Plant and Soil Science, Floral Design, Landscape Design and Management, among others. 

“I think the way the FARMERS program and this grant bring together so many different aspects of education and community service is part of what made our application so strong,” explained Dr. Luis Torres-Hostos, Rotarian and dean of the UTRGV School of Social Work. “The UTRGV Agro-Ecology and Resilient Food Systems Program has been included as a part of the coordinating efforts and will also help encourage students to pursue post-secondary education options.”

The project will also coordinate with the Farm-to-School training program sponsored by the Region One Education Service Center, and the Texas Workforce Solutions Vocational Rehabilitation Services (TWSVR) Pre-Employment Transition Services program for 18+Program students with disabilities.

District officials plan to hold a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Agriculture Science Lab in the spring of 2022 once everything is in place. Portable classroom buildings are currently being relocated to the property and being set up to serve as a combination of classrooms, laboratory space, office space, and storage. Land is also being cleared in preparation for crop space and garden areas. 

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