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Caroline farmer back in the classroom
Agriculture teacher Hunter Gravatt spends the first 10 minutes of each class at Caroline High School answering questions about what he did on his farm the night before.
On a fall morning, Gravatt told his students about a new calf he discovered.
While doing his normal rounds of feeding the 50 or so heifers on his family farm, he discovered a black calf near its mother.
He says births on the farm are one of the things his students always ask about.
He estimated that the surprise calf was born in the past two days because it was already walking.
Common questions from his students include whether the calf is male or female, and the girls coo over it.
The 25-year-old Gravatt splits his time between teaching three classes at the high school and helping out on his family’s farm in Milford, like he’s done for most of his life.
While farming is something he always knew he wanted to do, teaching is a new experience for him.
“I had no intentions of going back to school, ever setting foot in a school again,” he said.
He envisioned a career in agricultural sales or marketing, he said.
This is his second year teaching agriculture and he says he loves it.
GROWING UP FARMING
Gravatt said he always helped out on the farm, doing different tasks.
As young as 9 years old, he was allowed to drive a tractor.
“I was scared to death—a deputy passed the other way, and I thought I would get pulled over,” he recalled.
By age 12, he had more responsibilities and could operate the heavy equipment.
Hunter’s father, Will Gravatt, says he remembers his son asking all kinds of questions about the machinery and learning about each part.
They grow corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, hay and raise beef cattle on the farm.
The Gravatt family has a history of farming in Caroline County since the 1700s.
Growing up on the farm, Hunter said he looked up to his grandfather.
In 1956, Hunter’s grandfather, Garland Gravatt, opened G&G Ace Hardware.
Hunter helped out there, too.
After high school, he knew he wanted to go to Virginia Tech, like his grandfather.
He studied agriculture there and was a research assistant. He also had an internship, in which he learned all kinds of practical farming techniques.
He was even in an agriculture fraternity.
The other thing that his high school students ask him about frequently is if he was there on April 16, 2007—when a gunman killed 32 people and wounded 17 others.
Gravatt was a freshman then and has no trouble recalling where he was. He said he and friends were “glued to the TV” in their fraternity house, checking emails and looking for the latest information.
After graduating in May 2011, he returned home to Caroline with plans to work on the family farm and go into a career selling and marketing farm equipment. And he did—for a John Deere dealer in Fredericksburg. But then a unique opportunity was presented to him.
FFA MAKES A COMEBACK
Gravatt heard there was an opening for an agriculture teacher at Caroline High School. Friends heard, too, and hinted that he should apply.
With no teaching experience, he didn’t know if it would work out, but he decided to apply anyway.
In the fall of 2012, he joined the faculty.
In addition to teaching three sections, he’s also the school’s Future Farmers of America adviser.
There hadn’t been an active FFA club in years at Caroline High.
He recruits students for the club through his classes. Though his students didn’t know what FFA was, their parents did because they participated when they were in school.
In his first year, the club had about 10 kids, but this year, it has grown.
Club members planted crops at the State Fair in southern Caroline this year. They also hold school events, do fundraisers and compete against other high school clubs, Gravatt said.
They’ll plant crops on the state fairgrounds again next year, Gravatt said.
The club is not just about farming, but leadership and teaching a generation removed from farming about where their food comes from.
He teaches them that steak and chicken don’t just come from Food Lion. He tells them that lots of work goes into raising a quality product.
“I tell my kids every day: Even though less than 2 percent [work] on the farm, we’re feeding the world,” he said.
Another project the students are taking on is planting crops in a 2-acre field adjacent to the high school that was donated to them.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Will Gravatt said about his son’s teaching. “I would have never thought of him as being a teacher.”
Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413