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Newton County School System (NCSS) and the Newton County Chamber of Commerce are pleased to announce that the Newton County Farm Bureau has been named the 2014 NCSS Partner of the Year. NCSS has approximately 150 individual school-business partnerships and each year the district selects one business partner that stands above the rest as the Partner of the Year.

The Farm Bureau partners with Middle Ridge Elementary School and according to principal Michael Forehand, “They truly roll up their sleeves and they dig in the dirt with us, which means a lot to our boys and girls. Our boys and girls don’t have a lot of experiences outside of the school house so they have actually brought education to life at Middle Ridge Elementary.”

According to Forehand, the Farm Bureau is truly dedicated to the students and staff at Middle Ridge Elementary School. He noted that members of the Farm Bureau were even at the school this morning before the Partners in Education reception serving breakfast to teachers for Teacher Appreciation Day.

Forehand noted that the Farm Bureau conducts a Book Club at Middle Ridge, which has supported the school’s literacy program by promoting informational text reading, building and enriching background knowledge, checking for comprehension, and summarizing--the very literacy skills areas the school’s students need support in.

In addition, the Farm Bureau provides Middle Ridge teachers with hands-on lesson activities and opportunities for project based learning. They also provide the lesson and all materials needed and even send a representative to assist with the implementation.

The Farm Bureau also sponsors an annual Farm Day on school campus where students are provided an incredible experience to better understand agriculture and the role it plays in our society. On Farm Day, students had the opportunity to participate in several hands-on activities throughout the day and the Farm Bureau provided teachers with instructional materials to continue lessons in the classroom. They  also provided treats for the students and even supplemental material for agriculture literacy lessons.  

In 2014 the Farm Bureau joined forces with other agencies and companies to donate a Hoop house to Middle Ridge Elementary School and they even coordinated with a committee to build the structure. As a result, students will be able to learn about plant life cycles, the pollination process, and will even have the amazing experience of growing food they will be able to harvest and eat.

According to Forehand, the Farm Bureau is not just a good partner in education with the school, they also support the entire school system, its students and teachers. Each year, the Newton County Farm Bureau sponsors a Farm Day on the Farm for all Newton County pre-kindergarten students, providing them the opportunity to experience life on the farm. Students have the opportunity to handle the animals, touch and sit on large tractors, and ask questions, all the while learning.

Finally, the Newton County Farm Bureau supports the teachers of Newton County Schools by offering numerous professional development opportunities each year. They provided a workshop in the fall for teachers and even removed the financial burden from the school system by providing compensation for substitutes to cover classes so teachers could attend. They provided lessons and materials needed to implement lessons, took the teachers on a field trip to local farms, and provided lunch—all at no cost to the teachers.

Forehand said it was, “an amazing opportunity for teachers throughout the county to learn about agriculture and the importance of teaching students how to make the connection to agriculture and their community.” 

In addition, the Farm Bureau has also sponsored teachers, all expenses paid, to attend local, state and national conferences supporting agricultural excellence in the classroom.

“It’s very obvious that this partner in education truly supports the students and teachers of not only Middle Ridge but also the school system as well,” said Hunter Hall, president of the Newton County Chamber of Commerce.

“This is an awesome award and we are honored to receive it,” said Ms. Crystal Powell-Hyatt of the Newton County Farm Bureau. “We’ve been a partner with the school for seven years and it’s just amazing that we have this opportunity. I hope that we can get into even more schools. We are mainly in Middle Ridge but would love to go to even more schools.”

Mr. Keith Mitcham, a volunteer with the Farm Bureau bragged on the Farm Bureau by noting that most of the people in the Farm Bureau who helped with Farm Day and even with constructing the Hoop House are volunteers.

He noted that most people think of the Farm Bureau as just an insurance company, but it’s much more than that.

“The insurance side is to make money for the federation side,” said Mitcham. “The insurance company and through membership provides us with funds for us to do things like this. And we’re all volunteers. Everybody that put up the Hoop House was a volunteer. And I’m very proud of that.”

“I want to congratulate the Farm Bureau on being named our 2014 Partner of the Year,” said Samantha Fuhrey, superintendent of Newton County Schools. “Their support of Middle Ridge Elementary School is indicative of the support all of our schools receive from our many partners in education. We are grateful for the local business and community organizations who continually step forward to assist our schools on a daily basis. I can assure you that the support we have received from our partners in education has paid dividends in terms of academic achievement, improvement in student behavior, and attendance.”

For more information on the NCSS Partners in Education program, contact Ms. Sherri Davis-Viniard, Director of Public Relations for Newton County Schools at davis-viniard.sherri@newton.k12.ga.us.

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