Monday, February 24, 2014
Bobby Behr has a green thumb, an All-American leg and a flair for BBQ.
Behr, an assistant principal and athletic director at Ashley Ridge High School, led a project involving Clemson Cooperative Extension, local farmers and businesses to established a school garden on the ARHS campus. With Behr’s guidance, the project was a huge success and spawned bigger endeavors.
“Bobby Behr has worked tirelessly within his community and surrounding communities to bring gardens, fresh foods and healthy lifestyles to students in Dorchester County schools,” Thad Schmenk said in his nomination of Behr for the Men to Watch. “By taking a hands-on approach to agricultural education in the schools and allowing the students to develop a sense of pride and ownership in their gardens, he is creating lasting and widespread healthy habits that will reach far into the future.”
Behr recruited students to tend the garden so they would learn about farming.
“At first, I would go into ISS and ask for volunteers to work in the garden hauling compost and planting and potting,” he said. “They loved it and started asking if we could offer a class. The second year, Special Education students got involved and they also enjoyed it.”
The vegetables from the garden are served in the school cafeteria. Schmenk says the result is more than a 500 percent increase in vegetable sales and consumption in the cafeteria.
That success opened the door for Behr to use a Farm to School Grant from Boeing to establish gardens at all 22 District Two schools. Teachers are provided with online and hands-on training in basic gardening principles as well as the supplies needed for a garden.
“I’ve always had a garden and a passion for growing flowers and vegetables so I think it is great we are able to expose students to where produce comes from and what different foods taste like,” Behr said. “From an education standpoint we are able to train them how to be sustainable, how to grow their own food. That’s huge.”
Now fresh vegetables are available at each school’s cafeteria. Behr even brought together all the cafeteria managers to discuss tips on preparation.
“We showed them how to cook Greek potatoes with Greek chicken,” he said. “We talked about how to prepare collards, turnips, rutabagas in ways the kids would enjoy. You can cook vegetables in different ways to make them more appealing to kids.”
Currently Behr is working to establish school farms that could help supply vegetables to schools in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties. With the help of MeadWestvaco, Ashley Ridge is developing a 10-acre farm near the school that will include a greenhouse and refrigerated storage.
A master gardener, Behr would also like to incorporate adult education into the expanded AR facility. That’s something he already does at a booth his family farm has at the farmer’s market.
Behr has been an educator since 2000.
“I’ve always enjoyed building a rapport with kids and helping them find something they can connect with,” he said. “You can’t put a price tag on being able to send a kid in the right direction.”
However, he didn’t take the normal path to a career in education.
After attending Furman University as an ROTC student and earning a BA in Political Science, he entered the Army as an officer and went through airborne training, Ranger school and commando school. He served in Germany for three of five-and-a half years of military service.
While stationed at Fort Jackson, he met his wife, Myra, on a blind date. He grew up in Holly Hill and she grew up in Harleyville
“Myra has been such an important part of everything I’ve done,” he said.
After his military service, he went into real estate and became a Certified Commercial Investment Member. But Behr always loved cooking so he eventually ventured into the restaurant business.
He owned 11 Huddle House restaurants, two BBQ restaurants and a catering business that specialized in BBQ and Southern cuisine.
He also worked for Mead Westvaco, which led to a master’s degree in human resource development.
One day an ad for critical needs teachers caught his eye.
“My wife told me you’ve always wanted to coach and you do good around kids so you should get in touch with them.” Behr said.
They lived in Summerville so he jumped at the chance when District Two offered him a job as a business and keyboarding teacher.
A year later, he talked to Summerville High athletics director John McKissick to see if he could help out with the football program. After looking into Behr’s background, McKissick offered him a job.
At Holly Hill High School, Behr earned All-American honors and a total of 18 varsity letters in football, basketball, baseball and track, something that had never been done at the school. He set the state record for most consecutive extra points kicked as a senior. He was a captain on a basketball team that won two consecutive state championships and of a track team that won three consecutive state championships. Behr was with the Furman University football team for four years. He scored 96 points during his senior season to lead the Paladins in scoring.
Today, Behr is on the staff of prokicker.com, an organization co-founded by trailblazing punter Ray Guy to identify and develop kickers and long snappers. He is also a nationally certified Sports Field Manager and past president of the South Carolina Sports Turf Managers Association.