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Teacher blends classwork and farming in Holland

HOLLAND, Mich. -- Students in Ottawa County are getting the chance to raise pigs and grow vegetables, and their program just earned a big award.

Careerline Tech's Tony McCaul was named the "Educator of the Year" by the Michigan Farm Bureau for excellence in agriculture education.

A farm kid from Lake Odessa, Tony McCaul says he wasn't sure if farming was for him.

“I grew up on a farm. Everyday I milked cows and took care of pigs. I knew that I liked farming, but I didn’t know if I wanted to do that for a career. So I went to Michigan State studying ag education, and now I get to spend every day in agriculture teaching others about my passion."

From donning boots and helping with barn chores to teaching in the classroom, it's clear why McCaul was chosen as the Michigan Farm Bureau's "Educator of the Year."

“This is my 8th year here and this program did not exist before I started," McCaul tells FOX 17.

In 8 years, McCaul's program at the Careerline Tech Center in Holland has grown from 30 to 90 high school students. It features students from all over Ottawa County from a variety of different backgrounds.

“Out of the 90 kids that are in the program you would think a majority come from farms, but that’s not the case," McCaul explains, "There’s probably 10 percent to 20 percent who come from farms. A lot of students just have an interest in it and then they get the chance to see what it is here."

After learning the ins and outs of farm life, everything from animal husbandry to milk testing, some of McCaul's students go on to study agriculture in college.

“I’ve had several, but there’s some that just jump into my mind," McCaul says. "Kids that came Downtown Holland or other areas that did not have the background and they came here and found that ag is their passion. They went to colleges like MSU and GVSU, getting degrees they never thought they could."

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