For Rick Adams, the decision to become a high school agricultural education teacher was a “Coug to Coug” situation.
“My ag ed teacher, Roy Hallstrom, was a WSU alum, and he was what motivated me to pursue this field,” said Adams, who has taught agricultural education at Prosser High School for the past 33 years. “I saw what he did for other kids, and thought if I could do what he did, it would be a great way to spend a career.”
Adams grew up on a small apple farm in Cowiche, Wash. He chose to come to WSU to earn his bachelor’s degree because “that was where ag ed was, and I always wanted to be a Cougar.”
Once he arrived, he found a challenging curriculum and a new extended family.
“WSU was just a big family, and we developed so many close ties,” Adams remembered. “The friendships you make there can last a lifetime.” He graduated in 1975 and was hired at Prosser High.
Adams also has been active in FFA – formerly Future Farmers of America – for most of his life. His classroom walls are draped with banners won by FFA teams he has led over the years; Prosser has one of the largest FFA programs in the state.
He said students – most of whom do not come from traditional rural backgrounds these days – take ag ed for the science, but they also are interested in the leadership opportunities FFA affords them.
“There is one girl in my class who wants to become a lawyer, but she joined FFA because she knows she’ll build the communication skills here that she needs to succeed,” he said.
Adams said he and the other two ag ed teachers at Prosser work to provide an “applied, hands-on science” experience for their students. “We modified the curriculum a few years ago… and incorporated more physical science in both agriculture and horticulture.”
The result? Students who graduate with employable skills. “We have a greenhouse for plant propagation, and one skill we focus on is budding and grafting. We have two students working at the WSU Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center right now because of the skills they learned in the greenhouse.”
Adams said many of his students are looking at employment opportunities in the burgeoning wine grape industry. “They don’t want to be farmers necessarily, but foremen, ranch managers, irrigation technicians, production supervisors or winemakers. Don’t forget, agriculture is still the No. 1 industry in the state of Washington. Agriculture Education is a great career; I get to work with plants, animals and kids.”
By Kathy Barnard