By Laurin Stroud
When school let out on March 16, Derek and Lyndsey Norman, agriculture teachers at Gibson County High School, knew they had plenty of work that would still need to be done.
Derek teaches the large animal and welding classes and has been on staff at GCHS for 14 years. Lyndsey teaches the vet science, small animal, and greenhouse classes and has 13 years of experience at GCHS. Together with their 6-year-old daughter Lauren, they have been taking care of the agriculture program’s livestock, greenhouse, and property.
“That last day of school, I had three student workers who filled up pots of soil and baskets and got everything transported from the shop to the greenhouse, where we could get plants transplanted,” Lyndsey said. “After getting the clearance from administration and following strict guidelines, we started the greenhouse sale the week after school was closed. We sold items in larger quantities than normal, parents who sold ferns buy the bulk, and other high schools that didn’t open their greenhouse, buy from us. Normally, we have a second crop in May with some left over, but this year we opted not to do a second crop. We completely sold out of everything. The community really just came together, and we even had people make donations to FFA.”
During peak, the Normans dedicated 12-hour days to the greenhouse, which benefits the school’s robust FFA program.
“We staggered shifts that we were open, but a lot of days we were here from 7 a.m. till 7 p.m.,” Derek said. “We would only be open four of those 12 hours, but it was taking three hours to water both greenhouses. We even had customers that waited in their cars 20 to 30 minutes to shop with us.”
“We also could not have done the work without Tammie Lovell, who is another teacher, and her daughter,” said Lyndsey. “They came out some days that I couldn’t be here and helped transplant crops.”
The last day the greenhouse was open was April 24. Lyndsey is ready to place orders for ferns for the fall but is worried that school might not start back come August.
“When the school was officially shut down, we had several students that had bottle-fed baby goats,” Lyndsey said. “The students were not allowed back on campus to feed their goats, so we had to continue weaning the four goats on campus, feeding them two to three times a day. One student took their goat home and continued to care for it at home.”
The students pay monthly to help take care of the goats, so the Normans wanted to make sure that these animals were still taken care of and would be healthy when the students came back.
“We wanted to make sure that they were fair ready,” said Lyndsey.
“We had all of the cattle bred early during the semester, and our goal was to have everything where the kids could experience it,” said Derek. “Now we’re doing the spring vaccinations, castrating, and sorting by ourselves. We have held some live events on social media that way the students can still experience some things. What we are missing is the manpower. What would have been a 20-minute task with a class of 20, took almost two hours by myself.
“We had a barn renovation laid out, used kids to help move stuff around, and other things that students helped with,” he added. “We had to put everything on hold once we realized that the students were not coming back this semester.”
“During this time, we have purchased two more calves to raise and sell to the cafeteria,” Derek said. “It is a new program that we are starting called Farm to Table. We will feed them, apply for a USDA grant, and get everything approved through USDA guidelines. We are excited to share this with our students in the fall and let them experience this. This is also a good teaching tool right now during this decrease of beef supply. Other schools have this program, and we are excited to start it at Gibson County.”
Students also missed the state FFA convention, which was scheduled in April.
“We had three teams that were prepping for state when school was dismissed,” Lyndsey said. “I hated that that students who had worked and studied really hard had to miss out on that. We had two students that had won the regional proficiency award, and we are still waiting to see how they did at the state level. We are worried that the national convention will be cancelled. It is held in Indianapolis and hosts close to 50,000 students. We have two students that have an opportunity of winning. We will not know those outcomes until June. We also have two previous students who are getting their American FFA degree, which only about 3% of all FFA members get.”
Derek also teaches the GCHS shop class and has been able to get some students equipment to practice on while at home.
“I have some students who have already been accepted into technical school and are prepared to start in June,” he said. “So, with administration’s clearance, I was able to transport some welding machines to the students’ houses where they can practice at home. We still have students that call us daily, and we try to help on social media as much as we can. The students are not allowed on campus.”
The Normans, as well as other faculty and staff, are currently getting the school grounds ready for graduation Friday, May 15.
“The administration has been out on the field for hours measuring and figuring out exactly how to plan this year’s graduation,” Derek said. “We have been moving bleachers, grating the parking lot, and cleaning the grounds to make sure everything looks good.”
For more information on Gibson County FFA, follow them on Facebook.