Education Top News — 20 April 2012
By
Capital News Service

PYLESVILLE – Kenny Digiacinto, a junior at North Harford High School, drove his Case IH 305 Magnum to school Friday. Its red exterior is anything but inconspicuous, and its tire edges are taller than some of his classmates.

Digiacinto was one of more than a dozen students who rode their tractors to school in celebration of Agricultural Heritage Day.

“But traffic wasn’t too bad getting here,” Digiacinto joked.

Agricultural Heritage Day, also known as “Tractor Day,” is a beloved tradition at North Harford High School. Students bring their tractors to school to show off, and participants in the school’s agriculture program share their work in the school farm, all to celebrate the farmers and farms in the rural community.

Even the school colors are derived from the agricultural heritage of the area.

“The green is for the plants, and the gold is for the sunshine,” said North Harford’s principal, W. Edward Herbold, explaining the school colors, which mimic those of a John Deere tractor.

Agricultural Heritage Day has been a tradition at North Harford High School for more than 40 years, said Aimee Densmore, who is not only a teacher in the agriculture program, but an alumni of the school. Other schools in the area offer agricultural courses, but North Harford is the only school in Harford County with an on-campus farm, complete with three horses, two sheep, two alpacas, two rabbits, two cows and a pig.

Last year, more than 160 students applied for 70 openings in animal science, plant science, and natural resources courses.

“It’s getting popular fast, and its pretty competitive,” Densmore said.

Coveted class openings aren’t the only indication that farming is gaining in popularity among the Maryland youth community.

In the 2000-2001 school year, the Future Farmers of America, an organization dedicated to promoting agriculture among youth, had 1,287 members in Maryland. By 2010-2011, the number jumped to 2,027.

But for the North Harford High School community, agriculture and Tractor Day have been – and will continue to be – tradition.

“It’s a really awesome experience for the kids,” Densmore said.

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Mike Bock, 22, is a graduate student at the University of Maryland covering health and education. He received his bachelor's in Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication from James Madison University and has freelanced for Patch.com. He is interested in web production, social media and public affairs.