Agriculture teachers needed for future of food
COLUMBIA - New reports say it's all about supply and demand and there's more dem,and than supply when it comes to agriculture education.
The STEM Food and Ag Council released a report last week detailing the specific needs the field will face, including an additional 30,000 jobs being added over the next five years.
Many believe the start to a career in agriculture begins with a teacher pushing you in the right direction.
"Most of our students tell us that they are here because of their high school agriculture teacher," said Anna Bell, University of Missouri Agriculture Education department head.
Bell said have a mentor like that pushes many into different agricultural careers.
"They are inspiring students to be informed citizens about where their food comes from and they are inspiring them to go into careers where we're contributing to the advancement of having a safe, efficient, and abundant food supply," said Bell.
Another large push into the agricultural field comes from one of the largest youth organizations, The National Future Farmers of America.
This year FFA membership is at an all time high with 610,240 members according to the organization's website.
Missouri ranks 4th largest with close to 26,000 participants.
Gina Olsen was an active member throughout high school and credits the organization with changing her.
"FFA started this whole, I guess fire in me, that you need agriculture and it's what everyone should be involved in," said Olson. "It was so interesting to see how big of an impact agriculture makes."
Olsen said her time in FFA has made her a lifetime advocate, something that MU agricultural education majors strive for.
"We're really preparing people for, to be advocates for and leaders for agricultural companies and inspiring teachers at the high school level." -Bell
While Olsen is not an agriculture education major, she said one of her biggest passions is getting rid of negative connotations about the industry and came from her time in FFA.
"People don't really know what is involved in agriculture," said Olsen. "Consumers are very uneducated about where their food comes from and so that's why they have these negative connotations.
Olsen said she will always be an advocate for agriculture as well as FFA.
"I'll do whatever I can to help out," said Olsen.
Olsen used to participate in FFA speech contests but now, she sits on the other side of the table. "Occasionally I'll go back to my school and judge the district public speaking conferences," said Olsen.
For the STEM Food and Ag Council's full report, click here.