As a part of National FFA Week across the United States we interviewed FFA members and leaders in the state’s agriculture education programs. Kansas is an agriculture state with more than 30% of the economy based on farming and agriculture business. National FAA is a national youth program and in Kansas it includes 110 programs across the state and 10,000 young people
We started the interviews with Kurt Dillon, from the Kansas State Department of Education. Kurt is focused on agriculture education and is also the state advisor for the 110 FFA programs across the state. Joining Kurt, we also talked with Mary Kane, the Kansas FFA Association Executive Secretary and JoAnn Farmer, a teacher at Southwest High School and local advisor for the FFA program. JoAnn teaches agriculture and agribusiness courses. She teaches over 200 students and 145 members in the FFA program.
The Mission of Agricultural Education is to prepare students for successful careers and a lifetime of informed choices in the global agriculture, food, fiber, and natural resources systems.
When asked about what agriculture is, Kurt defined is as “Agriculture is if you wear it, eat it, live in it or grow it is agriculture”.
In this interview we highlighted the use of agriculture technology today in the production of agricultural products. Technology allows producers to grow more products with fewer labor inputs. We also discovered that there is a huge need for people to enter the agriculture fields with many robust opportunities. We also highlighted the future of the industry with the need to make sure young people are prepared to enter the field with the proper work skills with critical and creative thinking skills.
Workforce skills training at the high school level includes classroom education and work-based learning along with the FAA part that includes leadership and entrepreneur skills. One of the challenges in the need for more teachers to teach agriculture and agribusiness training that is needed.
JoAnn Farmer, a teacher at Southwest High school talks about the joy of working with students via the FFA program. At Wichita Southeast High School most of the students are urban based, so the training is more focused on agriculture business. All of her students are encouraged to have an SAE (Supervised Agricultural Experience) in which many students choose to focus on entrepreneurship.
Each student in the agribusiness course spends the first semester developing detailed business plans for their own agriculture-based business and the second semester is used to launch their new ventures.
In the second segment, we talked with Austin Nordyke and Tate Ahlvers, two of the leaders in the student FFA program. Tate for example, learned his passion was really farming by being in agriculture courses in high school. Tate also talked about what precision farming is including mapping of fields with drones, and GPS tracking for maintaining fields to increase yield.
Austin started a lawn mowing business as part of his agribusiness courses and completed in both local and national programs for proficiency awards in agribusiness and was the 2017 National FFA Star in Agribusiness award winner. Austin is in his final year of undergrad studying Engineering Technology Management and started an accelerated Master's Degree in Innovation Design, a new program focused on design thinking and human-centered design.
Tate Ahlvers is the 2019 National FFA Proficiency Award Winner in Forage Production and a member of Beloit FFA Chapter in Kansas. He also continues to work on his family farm, working 9,000 acres across four counties. Twelve hundred of those acres are for forage production. On average, the operation produces around 2,000 alfalfa bales and 3,000 straw bales each year. Ahlvers uses a number of management techniques to increase production, including fertilizing all of the ground in the winter off- season, thus maintaining the organic matter in the soil. Ahlvers is current a student at Cloud County Community College studying Precision Agriculture.
Advise from these student leaders include just following your passion and take the risk.
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