Stephen L. Jones may have retired from teaching agriculture at Belleville Henderson Central School, Belleville, in 2011, but that is not stopping the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District from celebrating his successes.
Mr. Jones was named the Conservation Educator of the Year, an award that was tailored to fit the orchard cultivator.
Its a twist on an old award, Conservation District Executive Director Brian J. Wohnsiedler said. It seemed fitting that all the years Steve was involved in the agriculture community that it would be a good opportunity to recognize him for his work.
Mr. Jones graduated from Hamilton High School in 1969 and from Cornell University, Ithaca, in 1973. As a teacher, he educated more than 100 students each year for 36 years. Two of his former students, Kevin M. Simpson and Jason D. Bast, are on the Conservation Districts board of directors.
Great guy, great educator, Mr. Wohnsiedler said.
Mr. Jones was surprised he received the award but grateful to be thought of.
When he was a teacher, he said, he always taught his students about farming diversity. He has owned his Mannsville orchard since 1979 and recently added grapes. He works full-time to keep his farm in prime condition.
Traditionally, our area is mainly dairy, he said. Its just to educate that this area can be diversified. We really have the perfect environment for these cold-hardy grapes because of the lake. We have the right kind of soil, the right kind of weather.
Each year that local schools have state aid reduced, agriculture teachers fear their jobs will be cut to conserve the core subjects. However, Mr. Jones said, agriculture is an important subject to teach.
Understanding the industry makes you a better consumer, he said. Its really important to teach, because its a hands-on science.
Through agriculture, he said, students have a better understanding of biology, chemistry, physics and earth science. He said his students learned science better because they used their hands, not just their minds.
Kids really picked up on those principles in science because they learn it in a practical way, he said.
Mr. Jones will be honored at a dinner tonight at Fireside at the Partridge Berry Inn, Route 3.