National Teach Ag Day

Event focuses attention on the need for agricultural educators in the United States.

John Duncan, a veterinarian with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Wyoming, clips a tiny piece of a third eyelid from a sheep while students watch.

John Duncan, a veterinarian with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Wyoming, clips a tiny piece of a third eyelid from a sheep while students watch.

courtesy Stephen Ausmus/Agricultural Research Service

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On March 24, National Teach Ag Day, agriculture teachers all over the United States will be introducing students to an exciting and demanding career – their own.

Currently, agricultural educators are in short supply all over the United States, with an inadequate number of agricultural education graduates being produced each year to fill job openings. Agricultural educators prepare students to fill jobs in one of the only major sectors of the U.S. economy that grew in 2010. Last year, agriculture exports increased by 11.9 percent to $107.5 billion dollars. USDA studies show that every billion dollars in agricultural exports supports more than 8,000 jobs. (1)

National Teach Ag Day is a day to celebrate the contributions agricultural educators make in their communities and in the lives of their students, and is also a way to encourage young people to consider a career in agricultural education.

“School-based agriculture programs are too important to lose, especially in the current economic climate,” says Jay Jackman, executive director of the National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE), the organization that facilitates National Teach Ag Day.

“A lack of agricultural educators means we’re cutting off the supply of employees to the agriculture industry at the wellhead,” Jackman says. “If there’s no one there to prepare students for these careers, then one of the industries that has been a corner post of American success will begin to weaken.”

Agriculture programs teach the science and production of food, feed, and fiber, as well as subjects like natural resources and veterinary science. Students in agriculture programs learn a wide variety of skills and concepts through these subjects, including science, math, communications, leadership, management and technology.

Agricultural education follows a unique model – lessons are delivered in a hands-on way that helps students more fully understand concepts, retain learned information, and apply material to real world situations. Agricultural education also includes a strong leadership component that helps develop students’ sense of responsibility and civic service.

Teaching agriculture can be a smart and fulfilling career choice for students from a variety of backgrounds. Many agriculture programs are strengthening the rigor of their already science- and math-rich courses to meet the needs of an increasingly technology-driven agriculture industry. Agriculture programs are teaching students concepts that will not only allow them to produce food on an unmatched scale, but also become chemists, geneticists or engineers.

Expansion into urban areas is also a current agricultural education trend, leading to even more employment opportunities for agriculture teachers. There are currently many agriculture programs in large urban centers, and the opportunity to open more is growing.  Kimberly Fogle is a CTE Agricultural Science teacher at W.E.B. Dubois High School in Baltimore, Maryland This is the first year for the agriculture program at her school.

“My students are 100 percent urban,” she says. “They like this class because it’s hands on, and they like the interaction with animals and plants they get. It doesn’t take them long to see that through our program they can become a scientist or biologist or another professional in addition to farming. Our administrators were very supportive in getting an agriculture program at the school. They feel like students need hands-on activities, community involvement, and leadership skills. This class brings that out. It also helps give them focus in other classes. They know they have to stay out of that fight or get good grades in everything if they want to run for FFA president, for instance. It gives them a goal to work toward.”

“Agricultural education is one of the best-kept secrets in education right now,” Jackman says. “We need to let the secret out of the bag and show people what great opportunities exist in a career as an agricultural educator. That’s what National Teach Ag Day is all about.”

National Teach Ag Day is a component of the National Teach Ag Campaign, an initiative of the National Council for Agricultural Education, led by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. The campaign is sponsored by Landmark Nurseries and the CHS Foundation as a special project of the National FFA Foundation, and also by Delmar Cengage Learning. For more about Teach Ag Day and the National Teach Ag campaign, visit the website.

The National Association of Agricultural Educators is a federation of state agricultural educators associations with more than 7650 members. NAAE seeks to advance agricultural education and promote the professional interest and growth of agriculture teachers as well as recruit and prepare students who have a desire to teach agriculture. For more information, visit the NAAE website.