APS Column: AHS growing opportunities in agriculture

Published 7:12 pm Friday, April 15, 2022

By Nick Schiltz

AHS Agriculture Instructor

Did you know that agriculture is America’s largest employer with close to 23 million employees working to feed, fuel, and clothe the world? In fact, many consider agriculture the backbone of the economy, a sentiment shared across Mower County and the greater Austin community, where the agriculture sector has a huge impact on the livelihoods and economic footprints across our area.

At Austin Public Schools, we are continuing to grow opportunities for students to learn about this pivotal part of our economy. The students in Austin FFA have been very busy growing their agricultural, food, and natural resources (AFNR) knowledge while also developing their leadership skills. Each year, the Austin FFA chapter participates in the Third Grade Day On The Farm, serving as group leaders in an event that draws all APS, Pacelli, and Lyle third grade students to learn about crops, animals, and future career opportunities in agriculture.

A hallmark of our curriculum is experiential learning. Our students frequently go on field trips to apply what they learn in the classroom and spark interests in the different facets of AFNR. Inside of FFA, students have the opportunity to put their knowledge of different AFNR topics to the test by competing in Career Development Events (CDEs) with other FFA students across Region 8 FFA and/or at the Minnesota State FFA level.

How do students grow their leadership development skills? Not only do FFA students serve as officers in the FFA chapter, but they can also participate in speaking, presentation, and events that spark teamwork and cooperation skills through Leadership Development Events (LDEs). Similar to CDEs, students also compete with other students across Region 8 FFA and/or at the Minnesota State FFA level.

How else do students apply what they learn in the real world? Supervised agricultural experiences (SAEs) allow students to take a skill they learned in class or from prior experiences or interests and develop a specific study/evaluation into a project. Working in tandem with their FFA advisors and other community leaders, SAEs are a vital component of AFNR/FFA education. In the AHS class Intro to Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources (AFNR), students complete multiple SAEs across the school year, growing their project-based/capstone learning skills. In FFA, students may officially submit SAEs for awards across Region 8 FFA and at the Minnesota State FFA levels.

Agriculture and food will always be a large component of the Mower County and Austin communities. Our students who are a part of the AHS Ag Ed/FFA programs are growing into future leaders who will help design solutions to how we feed, clothe, and fuel the world.