From 10,000 feet up, one of the most beautiful sights is the green earth below and the miles of well-tended fields of crops planted, grown and harvested by the farmers of America.
Agriculture is part of our history, and certainly we want to protect it to feed, clothe, and house future generations. Many young people are fortunate to have grown up farming. However, the portion of our population that has that opportunity is rapidly shrinking. Exposing students to agriculture, specifically to careers in farming and other agricultural pursuits, is key to refilling and building the capabilities of the US to continue to produce the products that society needs.
Ag education isn’t just learning about planting, growing and harvesting crops, it encompasses food, fiber and natural resources. Education also involves helping the global community understand and value the role of agriculture in the well-being of society and the planet.
Agricultural education can be delivered in many formats. It can be formal as in many vocational agriculture and forestry school programs. It can be through extracurricular activities like the National FFA program or 4-H. It can be through agritourism and field days, bringing hundreds of families to the farm. Whatever the program or format, it is important to build the next generation of agriculturally minded professionals.
Why is agricultural education important?
As both the number of privately-owned farms and the amount of total farmland acreage in the U.S. continues to decrease, agricultural education will be critical to produce experts in as aspects of agriculture and natural resource management who can develop and innovate continual improvements in agriculture to continue to sustainably expand food and fiber production for a growing population on a shrinking land base.
The average age of the US farmer is approximately 58 years and it is gradually increasing. In some states, like Tennessee, that average age is higher. A large generational shift is coming as farmers retire. It is imperative that we train the next generation of agricultural professionals to continue the strong leadership of the US in sustainable agricultural production.
Agricultural education is also important to non-farmers as well. Educated citizens should know how food and fiber is produced and how sustainable agriculture can meet societal needs while protecting our land, water and air. Agricultural education reaches more than students and their futures. It reaches their parents, family, and friends. Agricultural education is something that has a broad impact and can help set the tone on how the general public relates to agriculture.
For more information on agricultural education programs, please visit some of the following organizations:
Genera is proud to support agricultural education efforts and Tennessee farmers. With our Earthable® fiber pulp product, used to product sustainable packaging, we are creating demand for switchgrass and biomass sorghum, giving farmers a revenue stream that they can count on. For more information, visit our farmer recruitment page online, or call Brad Valentine at (423) 884-4119.