Growing a Business – How Withrow Students are Learning about Agriculture and Economics


“How can we use economics to determine how to feed eight billion people when one out of nine people globally are food insecure?” 

Students at Withrow University High School are trying to answer that question with business instructor Hope Johnson Gordon through a new class offered at the school. The pilot agribusiness course is available to ninth-graders and explores global economic issues through the lenses of both business and nature.

Gordon is no stranger to the agriculture community. Formerly, she tended the Shroder High School garden, making connections with members of the New Prospect Baptist Church, who planted apple trees and the Greenacres Foundation who provided plants. Her love of gardening, advocacy for urban agriculture and passion for teaching led her to develop the new course at Withrow with the backing of principal Jack Corey.

“This has taken off with my students,” said Gordon. “Jodi Black, a 4-H coordinator, encouraged us to put a hydroponic tower in our classroom to grow lettuce. Now, it’s being incorporated into class concepts around business. It sparks my students’ imaginations.”

Along with the hydroponic tower inside the classroom, Gordon’s students took a trip outside the classroom to plant 14 fruit trees along the Dana Avenue entrance to the school. The fruit trees included apple, cherry, peach and plum, and should have fruit to harvest in about three years.

The fruit trees were obtained with the help of Alan Wight, coordinated through The Giving Tree. Gordon Reed and Theresa Stark from Farm to Grow, Inc. and Tommy Rueff from Happen, Inc. were on-site to help the students dig holes and plant the saplings.

The project brings together Gordon’s lessons from the classroom with DECA Inc. and 4-H principles to provide project-based learning for her students.

What’s in store for the program now that the 2017-18 school year has ended? Many students are excitedly anticipating future agriculture projects in the pipeline, and Gordon has her own dream of what the program can grow into.

“I’d like to see a formal sustainable urban agriculture program that allows students to earn college credit,” she said.

Along with the agribusiness course, Gordon has introduced an official 4-H program at Withrow, which she saw as a win to expand the program into more urban markets, that will continue next year.

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