By Maddie Smith
National FFA Officer Candidate
When we talk about education, we usually think about the students and teachers, but what about the community? How do we make classroom content applicable to the “real world”?
What does it take to promote a town’s economy and culture? Can certain classes make a
Yes — certain classes can make a difference! Agricultural education answers all three of those questions. There are several viewpoints we could use to explain the value of agricultural education. It is an asset to students and agriculturalists, as well community members. Agricultural education has three components. Between the three components, it provides communities with skilled workers, agriculturally literate citizens, and servant leaders.
Agricultural education starts in the classroom. Offering classroom instruction, as well as hands-on laboratory time, allows students to dive deeper into the content. Sometimes beginning as early as middle school, students learn about ag content, explore careers, and work outside of the classroom to apply their knowledge in real situations. While Google is a great place to learn basic facts, organized coursework is rigorous and thorough. This prepares students for success in post-secondary education at four-year universities, two-year universities, apprenticeships, or short-term certifications.
In addition to being rigorous, coursework is relevant. While a St Paul school may offer urban ag and ag technology classes, a Fillmore County ag ed program may offer crop and animal science classes. A local committee guides the selection of specific agriculture classes to ensure that workforce needs are met. For each school, a committee is composed of local agriculture leaders, and includes the school’s ag teacher(s), alumni, parents, and other individuals.
After looking at classroom instruction, it is important to know that the other two components would not be possible without our ag teachers and classes — which is why more schools continue to offer agriculture classes. Once students enroll in an ag class, they are eligible to become an FFA member. Across the country, over one million students take agriculture classes and more than 650,000 are FFA members — and every single member is required to take an agriculture course. This academic requirement is what makes FFA unique from other extracurriculars.
The FFA mission focuses on promoting premier leadership, personal growth, and career success. Leadership conferences, trainings, conventions, and officer positions allow students to grow as leaders and serve. They also work to succeed in competitions, advance technology in agriscience fairs, complete requirements for highly-honored degree achievements, and other award areas related to their work in agriculture. As FFA members, students gain regional, statewide, national, and global perspectives in agriculture by traveling and networking with industry professionals. All of these things allow a student to bring back awareness and skill to serve a community.
Competing in the parliamentary procedure contest teaches students to conduct an orderly meeting using the same rules as Congress. Being able to do something as simple as lead an officer meeting equips strong community leaders for school boards, city council, and even everyday conversations. In general, the most successful chapters are those who share these experiences. Whether it’s building a community garden, working at a farm sale, helping a community member clean up storm damage, or volunteering at the county fair, FFA members serve with their chapter and continue to serve following high school.
The third and final component of agricultural education is Supervised Agricultural Education (SAE). Each one looks different, and every student is required to have one. The purpose of an SAE is to provide a student with a personalized project to apply their knowledge, with the guidance of their advisor. There are six types of SAEs: placement, research, exploratory, school-based enterprise, and service-learning. Examples of SAEs may include starting a poultry business, working in a restaurant, researching renewable energy, shadowing a veterinarian, organizing a school greenhouse sale, or landscaping a community garden.
An SAE is work-based learning. It is learning by doing, and a group of FFA members from Braham, Minn., did just that when they invented a hand-held washing machine that can be used in space. They completed this project for NASA and continue to work with them! These students have set themselves up for success, represented their school district well, and contributed to technology and the agricultural community. By competing in award areas known as proficiencies, students can earn scholarships and recognition to connect them to greater resources and help them continue their works beyond high school.
Agricultural education is composed of three components: classroom instruction, FFA, and Supervised Agricultural Experience — all of which contribute to communities. By enrolling in their first agriculture class, students can become agriculturally literate, gain technical skills, and develop into servant leaders. This is a benefit to those who pursue careers in and outside of the agriculture industry! Investing in agricultural education starts by impacting students and teachers and further benefiting their communities. Whether we’re in Fillmore County or not, the beauty of agricultural education starts in the classroom and goes anywhere beyond the classroom doors.
In the upcoming weeks, I will be sharing what I have learned and continue to learn from my experiences and conversations across the state. Topics will range from local stories to understanding the relevance of policies and current events in agriculture. Literacy is listening. To share any questions, story ideas, or comments on published or potential articles, please feel welcome to email me firstname.lastname@example.org.