Ag Program Seeks Help

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The Agriculture Depart­ment at Payson High School (PHS) will throw open its doors on Saturday to the community.

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New agriculture teacher David Rutherford hopes to help Rim Country residents who dabble in agriculture with 18 different speakers on topics from worms and landscaping to chickens and welding.

“The main thing is to help backyard farmers,” said Rutherford.

The open house, “Super Saturday” starts at 9 a.m. and continues until 4 p.m.

The $10 per family entry fee gives guests the run of the PHS Ag department, including the machine and wood shop, plus a full barbecue lunch for another $5.

Rutherford plans on 100 people attending.

The new Ag teacher comes from Washington State, after 20 years of teaching the subject. He found Payson after his wife visited the Rim Country while seeing family in Phoenix.

“She thought it would be a good place to live,” he said.

Rutherford has started his freshmen and sophomore Ag students on chickens. They have recently moved the hatchlings from a classroom cage to the larger agricultural building pens.

As his students learn to raise chickens, he’s experimenting with four different types of feed to compare the results.

“We have four pens split in two for each class period doing this experiment,” said Rutherford. “It’s to teach the scientific method.”

In one pen, a group that calls themselves the Tylers put feed and water out for their chicks while they checked on the health of their brood.

The group of students — Regan Weaver, Sadie Sweeney, Justice McNeeley, Jake Beeler, Denton Petersen, Taylor Johnson and John Cowan — know their chicks.

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“Tyler is the bully,” said Weaver.

When asked how they knew who Tyler was, Weaver and Petersen both said they just knew because each chick has a personality. To an outsider, they all look the same.

“A valuable lesson is don’t bond,” said McNeeley.

Rutherford said these chickens will be ready to auction after Thanksgiving.

That is the point of the agriculture department, teach students to raise crops and livestock for sale.

After the chicks have grown, Rutherford said his classes will start raising steers. The FFA program, similar to the 4-H program, has students raise livestock, keep notes and receipts on feed and vet bills, then sell the product at the end of the year.

On Saturday, Rutherford will teach how to start a chicken coop in the back yard.

“I just went to town hall, all of the ordinances say chickens can be raised anywhere in Payson,” he said.

Classes start every hour on the hour. Each time slot has three classes to choose from.

For more information, e-mail david.rutherford@pusd.com or call (928) 474-2233.

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