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A New Generation of Farmers

A New Generation of Farmers

The world of limitless possibilities that AIDB can open for its students now range from as simple as growing produce to as complex as preventing online cyber-attacks. “We have been so fortunate to create programs that make things more accessible for these kids,” Director of Special Projects Dr. Dennis Gilliam said. The Joe Tom Armbrester Agricultural Center is a dream sparked by the desire of a friend to honor Armbrester, a well-known Talladega farmer, and an effort to show students the basics of living off the land through a $1 million donation. It is a dream that is now becoming reality.

Construction of a 30-acre farm in Talladega complete with a classroom, lab, test kitchen, fish pond and plenty of planting space has begun and will soon be used to teach AIDB students about the simpler times of yesteryear – and the thriving farm industry of Alabama today. The agricultural industry in Alabama generates an annual economic impact of $70.4 billion and produces 580,295 jobs across the state. As Jimmy Parnell, president of the Alabama Farmer’s Federation, points out, “What makes agriculture unique is that
every county in the state is involved.” There are more than 48,500 farms in the state, covering nine million acres, Federation data shows. The state exports more than $1 billion in agricultural goods each year including poultry, chicken eggs, cattle, cotton, peanuts, and nursery and greenhouse products.

“A successful statewide industry with potential job opportunities in every county is a perfect partnership for AIDB,” said AIDB President Dr. John Mascia. “We take pride in the diversity of our people and in the diversity of our programs.  Those with sensory loss need hands-on training and agriscience allows our students to experience something new and challenging.”

The seed for this project began in the classrooms of the Helen Keller School
(HKS), the Alabama School for the Deaf and the Alabama School for the Blind where teachers nurtured hands-on techniques and a love of farming. The experience soon outgrew the confines of classrooms as gardens, chickens and even goats began appearing outside on campus. Students at HKS began taking the goats for a walk and grew excited about the hatching of baby chicks all while learning what it takes to make a garden grow.

At the new Joe Tom Armbrester Agricultural Center, students and teachers will be developing unique and interesting ways to improve skills that lead to independence. In addition to modern farming techniques, teachers will consider vision and/or hearing loss, wheelchair accessibility and other mobility issues in every activity - whether in the garden or with animals - in order to fully engage students, regardless of their challenges.

The completion of the new facility is expected in February 2019 - just in time for the spring planting season. Gift and naming opportunities for the program are available.

For more information contact the AIDB Foundation at 256-761-3571 or