By Joe Martin
We all have our favorite cereal brand. Many enjoy a colorful bowl of Fruit Loops or the sweetness of Frosted Flakes. Others go for healthy cereals such as Shredded Wheat. No matter your favorite, it’s easy to know what you’re getting just by looking at the branding on the box.
When you see agricultural education students, often in their iconic blue corduroy FFA jackets, you probably think, “Ah, look at those bright young students, the next generation of leaders in our communities!” I hope you do, because of the potential that lies within the person wearing the jacket. When you see that “brand,” you know that a quality product can be found within.
But many people don’t realize that those knowledgeable, hard-working, professional young people were developed not only by the FFA program, but also in their high school ag education classrooms. They’ve been honed into highly skilled and employable individuals by applying that knowledge through their supervised agricultural experience (SAE) program. All three components go into creating a stellar product. So, like an episode of “Unwrapped” on the Food Network, let’s look at what goes into making the model Indiana ag education student.
Ag ed today
Indiana has more than 25,000 agricultural education students in 220 rural, suburban and urban ag education programs. They’re taught by 275 instructors, in high schools and career centers, who work hard to develop a highly valuable product, in and out of their classrooms. These students study through 15 rigorous, hands-on courses like animal science, plant and soil science, and sustainable energy alternatives.
They apply the skills they learn through work-based learning SAE programs that can be entrepreneurial, agribusiness-, placement- or agriscience-related.
More than 12,500 of these students develop their premier leadership, personal growth and career success in FFA. An important fact that many don’t realize is that students must be enrolled in an ag education course to be in FFA. FFA is intracurricular, not extracurricular, which means it’s part of the curriculum, not separate from it. By using all three components of agricultural education — classroom instruction, SAE and FFA — students become well-rounded, highly trained, highly skilled individuals.
More than a brand
Just like with our favorite cereal brands, it’s easy to forget what goes into making a quality product. As agriculturists, we know people don’t often know where their food comes from.
Like with our agricultural products, we must help people see how successful ag education students are developed. We must be diligent in showing how supporting ag education as a whole supports the students it produces.
The blue corduroy is our brand. But just like with cereal, the brand is only successful and sustainable if it showcases a quality product that people continually want.
Martin is the Indiana FFA program specialist. He writes from Trafalgar.