EVART – Agriculture is the third largest industry in Michigan, yet most public school systems do not devote much time educating students about farming. Jay Wallace, a teacher at Evart High School, decided four years ago that should change.

Funded by local grants, Evart High School constructed a greenhouse and began a plant/soil science program. About 93 students made use of the greenhouse in the fall 2010 trimester.

As an offshoot of the growing program and increasing attention to agriculture in the community, the high school is planning its first Green Technology Expo, to take place on March 26. The registration deadline is Friday.

With a goal of educating the public on alternative energy and sustainable agriculture practices, the expo will feature local experts and leaders in the field. Dr. Chris Schilling, a professor at Saginaw Valley State University, will give a presentation titled “Local Bio-Energy for a Better Future.” The other keynote speaker, Chris Bedford, will discuss the power of supporting local merchants. Several workshops will address other alternative energy ideas.

“There’s been enough advancement in technology and the right people will be presenting the information that it will be useable for the average consumer to educate themselves on what’s going on,” Wallace said.

Wallace hopes to see a couple of hundred people at the expo.

“We’re hoping to see the event continue to grow as an annual convention,” Wallace said. “We’d like to be the hub of the north for alternative energy.”

Morgan Composting, one of the event’s sponsors, has also donated time and money to establishing the plant/soil science program at Evart High School. The Green Technology Expo will be a significant event in establishing Evart’s presence in the agriculture field, said Brad Morgan, owner of Morgan Composting.

“Evart (High School) has been very progressive. It’s brought a new life to the local community,” he said. “This event could be the start to a great opportunity for northern and central Michigan in terms of education and jobs.”

Morgan will run a workshop about soil health and alternatives to pesticides and herbicides at the expo.

Registration for the event is $20 per person and $10 per additional family member. Vendors can register a booth for $50. All proceeds from the expo will go to the plant/soil program at Evart High School.

Students involved in the plant/soil program have conducted research for businesses on germination, soil and transplants. They are currently planning the addition of a aqua culture program that will teach students an all-natural way to filter water and study its effect on plants.

“(The program) is unique because it’s not based on chemicals or pesticides. It’s organic and natural,” said Alan Kullman, Evart High School principal.

He said Evart has one of the only all-natural agri-science programs in the state. Wallace said the focus on sustainability and green energy is necessary in anticipating the future of agriculture.

“It started when we were trying to come up with a way to tie in new state standards with hands-on experience,” he said. “It’s important to have the expo because we are starting to become recognized for our sustainable agriculture program.”

Other sponsors of the Green Technology Expo include Wind Power Services, GeoConnection Thermal Heating and Cooling, Michigan State University Extension and Evart Downtown Development Authority.

Updates about the expo will be posted on Facebook page “Evart High School Goes Green.” For more information, contact Wallace at (231) 734-5551.