Bucktail Leadership Program visits Sugar Valley

PHOTO PROVIDED Karen Bunsick, Treavor Burrows, Aaliyah McGowan, Sylvia Moore and Elliot Probst are among the Bucktail Area High School Youth Leadership Program participants. At top, they are seen at a farm in Sugar Valley with Jim Harbach, left, and Lisa Blazure, right.

RENOVO — The Bucktail Youth Leadership Program embarked on another leg of adventures in October.

This year’s Leadership class members are Shiane Acor, Karen Bunsick, Treavor Burrows, Danielle Green, Aaliyah McGowan, Sylvia Moore, Benjamin Probert and Elliot Probst.

Bright and early in the morning while the fog was just starting to lift, the students left their school and traveled to several “hidden jewels” in Sugar Valley, touring the Schrack Farm, exploring the Amish Buggy Shop and an Amish farm, and concluding with a visit to the NorthEast Fishery Center.

Arriving at Schrack Farm, the students were greeted with country air aromas and the warming sun. Ms. Gwen Bechdel and Mr. Rich Wykoff, program volunteers, were joined by tour leaders Mr. Jim Harbach, Schrack Farm manager, and Ms. Lisa Blazure, Conservation District agricultural resource conservationist. The students were excited to learn about the many modern farming techniques implemented at the farm, which has been a family-owned business for nine generations, since 1773.

Nearly 85 pounds of milk is produced daily by a single cow, which translates to approximately 10 gallons. The Schrack Farm currently milks nearly 1,000 cows three times a day. This milk is used for various milk products, cheeses, butter, and is a main ingredient of Hershey chocolate.

The buggy shop and Amish farm just up the road were made available to the group, even though the visit fell on an Amish holiday. After enjoying a snack, the students were able to tour the building where Amish buggies are constructed, painted, and decked out with custom interiors. The group then walked to the farm area to see the contrasts in farming operations between this farm and the previous one visited.

When asked for advice, Harbach shared his leadership philosophies: surround yourself with people most like who you want to be; set attainable and measurable goals and make them a priority; always remember your attitude is 100 percent in your control; and go skydiving, because after that, there won’t be much in life you will say you can’t do.

Blazure’s best practices included leading by example, standing your ground on the things that matter, and recognizing the importance of effective communication, particularly good speaking skills.

For lunch, the group was treated to soup, sandwiches and cookies prepared by program coordinator Bobbie Jo Simcox. While they ate, each of the students shared his or her enthusiasm assignment, revealing how being more enthusiastic about a certain aspect of life proved to be helpful and how enthusiasm can be contagious. The students discovered that being enthusiastic brought more pleasure and less stress to their everyday activities.

The teens then left for the fishery center where biologist Tom Kehler met them. They observed monstrous sturgeon, along with trout, which are kept at the center for study. Recently three of the sturgeons were provided to a Big Bass Pro Shop in the Midwest. The group was able to see and touch a paddle fish, a unique fish so named because its nose is a paddle. Kehler advised the students that the facility serves as a population ecology branch, fish technology center, and fish health center.

The kids had a great time visiting the farms, seeing animals, and observing fish they never would have seen otherwise, according to the program volunteers. They came away from this session with a better understanding of economics, biology, and history and a greater appreciation for the environment.

The Bucktail Youth Leadership Program is coordinated by Simcox and Bechdel as an activity club at the school. Financial support is provided by the Leadership Clinton County Alumni and private donations. The program provides educational experiences to help students develop awareness of community, culture and government and also develop their leadership, communication, public speaking and other life skills.