Future Farmers of America advocates Chuck Anderson and Jack Hatcher each got something unexpected when they recently attended a meeting on soil conservation.
For his work maintaining Harlem High School’s struggling agriculture program, Anderson won the Conservation Educator of the Year Award from Columbia County Soil and Conservation.
Evans High FFA adviser Phillip Price, a former student of Anderson, said Anderson likely saved Harlem High’s agriculture program from oblivion.
“When Grovetown (High School) opened, (Harlem High) lost so many students because of the rezoning that FFA took a big hit,” Price said. “(Anderson) knew if we lost it, we’d probably never get it back.”
To save the program, Anderson returned to work part-time at Harlem High, teaching a single agriculture class and advising the FFA program.
A 1969 graduate of Harlem, Anderson earned an associates degree from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, then bachelors and masters degrees from the University of Georgia.
For 28 years he taught agriculture at Evans High, then in Walton County for five years before retiring three years ago.
“I did not want to see the program cut at Harlem,” Anderson said. “So I came out of retirement to see if I could get some interest and motivate the students to take the program next year.”
Anderson’s efforts paid off, Price said.
“They’re up to four classes so far for next (school) year and might even get a fifth,” Price said. “I don’t think it would have survived without (Anderson).”
For that reason, Price said, Anderson deserved the recognition he received March 3.
In addition to temporarily resuming his teaching career, Anderson is organizing a 75th anniversary celebration for Harlem High’s FFA program for November.
Harlem received its FFA charter on Sept. 1, 1937, and Jack Hatcher was among the first students in the program.
“It’s nothing like it is now,” Hatcher, 91, said. “There was probably no more than eight or 10 students in it.”
Hatcher’s family owned a farm, and he grew up raising beef cattle and eventually became a farmer.
As one of Harlem High’s first FFA members, Hatcher was presented with the famed blue corduroy jacket he couldn’t afford as a teen.
“When I was in high school, it was the heart of (the Great) Depression, and we didn’t have any money for a jacket,” Hatcher recalled.
Price said he and Anderson wanted to change that.
“We felt like since he may be the only living member of the original chapter, he deserved to get that jacket,” Price said. “The (agriculture) program means a lot to him.”