31 Mar 2013 - Ag Education Offers a Great Future

Alright class, the subject this week is Agricultural Education, at the High School level, and the University level. First of all, in 2012 I heard from parents in seven different parts of the country expressing deep concern over the fact that budget cuts in their local school districts would either sharply curtail or eliminate FFA and Vocational Agriculture in their local high schools. They asked if I had any ideas that would help them keep that from happening, and I do.

I fully realize that budgets are a challenge for rural school districts these days, and I’m very aware of the argument that many Board members use to justify cutting the Vo-Ag Department…“there really aren’t enough farmers in the district to justify the cost.” In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth. There is a need, so let me offer some suggestions to those parents in school districts where the elimination of FFA and Vocational Agriculture is a threat.

Number one: You need to be very pro-active throughout the year, not just at budget time. I know FFA chapter members are involved in community projects outside the classroom, but the more, the better.

Number two: Stress the need for leadership building beyond agriculture because that is something that is not necessarily taught in the classroom, but certainly FFA is one of the best leadership building organizations for young people in the world.

Number three: Have a strong and active FFA Alumni chapter. If you don’t have one in the high school, organize one because adults who learned through FFA and are successful citizens in the community can do a great deal working with the school board to formulate solutions to the budget challenges in the district.

Now, on to the University level…since we are approaching High School graduation, I know many of you have a son or daughter wondering about the college major they should pursue and what career will bring them the best satisfaction in life. I suggest they take a hard look at an agriculture/agribusiness career. Across the country, Ag College Deans in Land Grant Universities tell me they consistently outrank other schools in the University in job placement for graduating seniors with levels running 90-95%.

We have now identified more than 300 different career opportunities involved in agriculture/agribusiness beyond farming and ranching. Areas of need according to company executives…agricultural engineers to design the tools of tomorrow, plant geneticists to develop new technology to increase food production around the world, international marketers to work with companies trading in a global economy, large-animal veterinarians, food safety, and the list goes on. To me it says there are 300 strong reasons why we need Agricultural Education at the High School level, to prepare tomorrow’s leaders to feed the world.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.