With demonstrations ranging from plant sciences to mechanics and business management, Penn Manor High School students had the chance on Thursday to show state officials how their education is preparing them for careers in agriculture.

Department of Agriculture officials and Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera stopped by the high school to highlight its widely recognized agriculture education program, of which about 300 students take courses in. It is one of three similarly planned events across the state.

“Historically, when we think of agriculture we think of just traditional farming, animal sciences,” said Rivera, former superintendent for the School District of Lancaster. “But as we start to dig deeper, it engages everything from life sciences to stem-related activities.”

STEM refers to science, technology, engineering and math.

Rivera related the school’s agriculture program to Gov. Tom Wolf’s mantra of “jobs that pay, schools that teach, and government that works” as he emphasized agriculture's large connection to Pennsylvania’s economy and jobs.

Rivera, along with special assistant for the Department of Agriculture Scott Sheely and state Rep. Brett Miller, commended the school’s agriculture education program, which was named the best in the state in 2014.

Miller, a former guidance counselor at Garden Spot and Warwick school districts, said the opportunities in agriculture are rarely appreciated or known widely.

Students clad in blue corduroy jackets led the officials on a tour of the classrooms, workshop and greenhouse where they do everything from welding and electrical work to testing soil samples and studying agribusiness.

High School senior and Manor Future Farmers of America president Katey Bleacher said she was excited to see her chapter of FFA get the attention and hopefully dispel some misconceptions about the group.

“A lot of people think FFA is just a bunch of farmers when in reality it’s way more than farming,” Bleacher said. “You have people working within the food industry. You have people making clothing. You obviously you have the farmers, but there’s so much more to it.”

Bleacher, a fourth-generation farmer who hopes to one day run her family’s poultry farm in Manor Township, said students are drawn to the agriculture program through a love for agriculture and the desire to build close-knit relationships.

For her, the plan to pursue a career in agriculture comes from a daily hands-on experience with her family’s 150,000 laying hens.

“I like the hard labor and being able to have the satisfaction at the end of the day that it was a good long day’s work, and just carrying out the tradition that’s been in the family for generations.”

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