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Ag education essential at every age

LEAD Comment: The new Nebraska LEAD director talks about the importance of the program and ag education.

June 28, 2024

3 Min Read
a young girl with a display about eggs
NEVER STOP LEARNING: Ag education for both the young and more experienced learners is important to foster a robust understanding of the significance of the industry to Nebraska's economy, new LEAD director Kurtis Harms says.Holly Wortmann

by Kurtis Harms

In a state so deeply rooted in farming and ranching traditions, agricultural education is vital in ensuring Nebraska’s way of life. Engaging all age groups in agricultural education fosters a robust understanding of the industry’s significance, promotes sustainable practices and supports the state’s economy.

From young children to adults — and from urban to rural areas — agricultural education ensures that Nebraskans appreciate the integral role the industry plays in their daily lives and the state’s overall well-being.

Starting with the youngest learners, agricultural education in elementary schools introduces children to the basics of farming and food production. Early exposure helps cultivate an appreciation for where their food comes from, and the hard work involved in producing it. Programs such as farm visits, school gardens and hands-on activities make learning about agriculture enjoyable and memorable.

This foundational knowledge is crucial, as it shapes children’s perceptions and attitudes toward agriculture, potentially sparking an interest in pursuing agricultural careers in the future.

Education at all levels

For middle and high school students, agricultural education becomes more structured and in-depth. Courses in agricultural science, technology and business can provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the industry.

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Through organizations such as 4-H and FFA, students can engage in practical experiences, leadership development and community service projects. These programs not only teach technical skills, but they also instill values such as responsibility, teamwork and environmental stewardship.

As students explore various aspects of agriculture, they can make informed decisions about their future careers, ensuring a steady stream of knowledgeable and passionate individuals entering the agricultural workforce. Additionally, through agricultural education, the next generation of smart consumers and voters is expanded.

Adults — including farmers, ranchers and agribusiness professionals — benefit immensely from continuing agricultural education. The agriculture industry is constantly evolving because of advancements in technology, changes in regulations and shifting market demands. Continuing education through workshops, seminars and Extension programs helps adults stay updated on the latest trends and best practices.

For example, learning about precision agriculture technologies can enhance productivity and sustainability, while workshops on financial management can improve farm profitability. By staying informed and adapting to new developments, adult learners can enhance their operation’s efficiency and sustainability, ensuring long-term success.

Additionally, through agricultural literacy programs, those people not directly involved in food production can achieve a higher level of understanding regarding how food is grown and raised.

Role of LEAD

One way Nebraska farmers, ranchers and agribusiness professionals can expand upon their agricultural knowledge and leadership experiences is through the Nebraska LEAD Program. This two-year leadership development program began in 1981 with a mission to “prepare men and women in agriculture for more effective leadership.”

Since its inception, more than 1,000 men and women have graduated from the program and are helping advance Nebraska’s agricultural industry at the local, national and international levels. Participants who have gone through the program are more aware, more objective, critical in thinking, confident, effective and motivated leaders who are passionate about improving Nebraska’s way of life.

Agricultural education at all ages is essential for Nebraska’s future, whether people are directly tied to the industry or not. It ensures a knowledgeable and skilled workforce, promotes sustainable practices and fosters a deep appreciation for the state’s agricultural heritage.

By investing in agricultural education, Nebraska can continue to thrive as a leader in the agricultural industry, ensuring a prosperous and sustainable future for all its residents.

Harms is the new director of Nebraska LEAD.

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