CSU, others stepping up to address number of agriculture teachers leaving the job in Colorado | TheFencePost.com

CSU, others stepping up to address number of agriculture teachers leaving the job in Colorado

When Jeff Plumb began working as an agriculture teacher in Haxtun High School on Colorado's eastern plains, he thought he'd maybe stay for a few years until he found another job. Fifteen years later, as the profession faces difficulty in keeping ag teachers longterm, Plumb is still teaching at the same school, and he says he hopes to help new teachers find the same love for their job. "I'm willing to step up and take a little time out of my day to help someone who is the same person I was 15 years ago," he said of mentoring newcomers. Kellie Enns, an assistant professor of agricultural education at Colorado State University, said the biggest issue the profession is facing is a dwindling number of teachers who stay in their positions longterm, an issue she said has been plaguing the profession for 15 years. And without stability in the ag teacher position, she said, schools and communities often miss out on the benefits of a good high school ag program. "When an ag teacher leaves, it's felt beyond the school because our ag programs are essential to the community, too," said Enns, who worked as an ag teacher for nine years before earning her doctorate and taking over her current position training other teachers at CSU. Weld County resident Kenton Ochsner, Colorado's state FFA adviser, said the agriculture industry is growing and doing very well, in general, so there's no shortage of industry jobs that pay well. Ochsner, who taught at Platte Valley High School's ag program in Kersey, said students who graduate with an ag education degree are well-rounded and well-versed in agricultures, and companies often seek them out, offering much better salaries than most high school ag programs do. "We can't change what the industry provides, and we can't change how much money the salaries at schools offer," Ochsner said. "But what we can change is the philosophy of our students who are graduating." • Enns said that out of her last graduating class, two-thirds went into the ag industry instead of teaching. "(Graduates) know a lot about the whole industry, so they're going to get tapped, and we know that," she said. "We just don't know how to combat it." Together with other organizations, CSU and the state FFA organization have taken several steps to address the lack of ag teachers in the state, one of which is a $3.3 million Center for Agricultural Education to be built on CSU's Agricultural Research, Development and Education Center north of Fort Collins. The center will feature a customized library and specialized technology, along with teaching and office space and an exhibit for the FFA's Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame. Enns said the hope is that the center will give students hands-on, classroom experience and top-of-the-line technology to work with. "That way we can better prepare teachers to do a better job, and if they're happy, and will stay in the profession longer," she said. The program is about $250,000 short of its goal for the building, but Enns said she's confident community members will continue to step in. "I think people understand the importance of the project and understand our dreams," she said. "They've come in great force to support it." Enns said CSU is working closely with teachers to tag students who they think would make good ag teachers, and she asks ag teachers to identify potential replacements when they leave. She said she's noticed some positive outcomes from those efforts. The ag education program at CSU will also target students who have graduated with other degrees, offering them the option of a post-bachelor license. "That's been increasing numbers in the last few years of our program," Enns said. • Plumb said when he started in Haxtun, the community fully embraced him and the program, but he knows not all first-year teachers enjoy that same benefit. He, Enns and Ochsner said it's crucial to help new teachers through their first few years in order to keep them in the long run. It's also important to find the right match between new teachers and programs. "It's like a marriage," Enns said. "You gotta find the right fit." Through the FFA's Blue Jacket Society, Enns said students are already earning scholarships and some signing bonuses when they take ag teaching jobs. Ochsner and Enns said while there were many years when people seemed to be oblivious to agricultural production, people are showing much more interest in where their food comes from and how it's grown. While most people are three generations removed from the farm, they said people are still very much connected with agriculture. "I look at that as a neat opportunity for the agriculture industry to educate the consumer on what we do and how we do things," Ochsner said. Plumb, who grew up on the Western Slope showing livestock in 4-H and FFA, said he's seen the number of ag programs growing back up, and now, it's a matter of finding the right teachers to fill those positions. "I think communities are starting to see the important of an ag ed program, and there's more and more programs each year," he said. "We don't seem to be growing at the same rate that the program numbers are growing." He said he's hopeful that efforts like those on the part of CSU, the FFA and others involved will help fill that gap. For Plumb, it's really the students who make him want to stay in agriculture education. He said there's nothing better than seeing a student have an "aha moment," as he put it. "I think another thing that keeps you going is having some of those students come back years later and say, 'Thank you. I appreciate you doing this for me,'" he said. Plumb said he understands that students who graduate with agriculture education degrees will have no problem finding higher paying jobs outside the education field, but he hopes to convey to them all of the added bonuses that come with being an ag teacher, benefits that you can't necessarily measure monetarily. "You're also getting paid in something that's bigger than money," he said. ❖

Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture deadline for scholarships and education loans fast approaching

Nebraska Agriculture Education Student Teacher Scholarship Program Applicants must be enrolled in the Agricultural Education Teacher Education program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. They are eligible to apply for scholarship for the value of approximately one-half tuition or $1,200 for the semester in which the student's student teaching experience occurs. Applications are due March 1. Charles Marshall Loans The Charles Marshall Loan Fund is supported by contributions from Farm Bureau members. It offers higher education loans for worthy Farm Bureau members enrolled for training in accredited institutions for the advancement of professional skills. Loans can be approved up to and including 50 percent of the cost of training which includes tuition, room, board, books and transportation. The amount approved depends upon the needs of the applicant and funds available. Applications are due May 1. Kenneth Schwartz Scholarship This fund is administered through the University of Nebraska Foundation. At least one $1,000 scholarship will be awarded per year. The applicant must be an incoming junior or senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln majoring in an agricultural or agricultural-related program including agribusiness. Applicants must belong to a member family of a county Farm Bureau in Nebraska or have their own Farm Bureau membership. A student who receives the scholarship as a junior is eligible to receive the scholarship a second year if grades are maintained and the applicant is again selected. The scholarship fund was established by the family of the late Kenneth E. Schwartz, who was executive vice president of Farm Bureau Insurance Company of Nebraska at the time of his death in 1987. Applications are due March 1. Greater Horizon Scholarship The Greater Horizon Scholarship is awarded to student's ages 18-35 who are from a Farm Bureau member or their family is a member. Applicants must plan to study an agriculture-related field full-time at a college or university and plan to return to production agriculture. Applicants must be a resident of Nebraska and demonstrate leadership potential through extracurricular activities and work experience. Up to two $1,000 scholarships may be awarded. Applications are due March 1. To apply for any of these programs, go to http://www.nefbfoundation.org or contact the Foundation team at FoundationForAg@nefb.org or (402)471-4747. -Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture

5 Questions: Award-winning teacher talks ag education

JuneFrances Anderson, a grade-school intervention literacy teacher for Denver Public Schools, received the Colorado Ag in the Classroom Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture Award on March 21, during the Colorado Foundation for Agriculture's Celebrating Agriculture Dinner in Greeley. Anderson, with 11 years of teaching in Denver Public Schools under her belt, took time recently to talk with The Fence Post about her own teaching efforts and agriculture education in general. 1. What are some of the unique things you've been doing in your classroom to have earned such recognition recently? A. In my recent second-grade classroom, I created and integrated a farm unit into our current social studies program. Our field trips were to the National Western Stock Show, urban farms in Stapleton, the Denver Botanic Gardens. We also invited local farmers into our classroom. Cindy Johnston from Johnston Family Farms came to speak to the students before our field trips. She even brought in toy tractors that were partially sponsored for the students through John Deere Longs Peak. Cindy taught the students three important things to remember: Always buy Colorado, thank a farmer and share your knowledge with others. At the end of the unit, students wrote non-fiction stories about pieces of Colorado agriculture, such as Colorado peaches, corn, John Deere tractors, horses, cattle or other topics of their choosing. 2. Where does your own personal passion for agriculture stem from? A. My personal passion for agriculture stems from when I was in junior high and high school. My mother registered us for the Douglas County 4-H program. My sister showed horses, my brother showed pigs and participated in the rockets, and I participated in the sewing/fashion shows. Growing up in Sedalia and Castle Rock, Colo., I have always been around agriculture, but never involved in farming. While I was in high school, my mother's boyfriend was the owner of Rosenquist Race Horses in Sedalia. Through his living on that ranch, I learned how to care for horses, feed them, stack hay and various ranch chores. Being that it was a ranch, I didn't really know at the time how much the cost of hay was — or really knew which farm the hay came from. During my time in high school, there was not an FFA program at Douglas County High School. In college, I really wasn't involved in any agriculture programs, as I went to Metropolitan State College of Denver and my main focus was to complete my teaching degree. All through my school years, my family always attended our local Douglas County Fair, entering into various events during our time in 4-H, and even out of 4-H. We also visited the Stock Show in Denver every year as a family tradition. It wasn't until I began teaching in Denver Public Schools that I realized the students I was teaching didn't have the knowledge or the resources to know where their food comes from, or even know the true history of the Denver National Western Stock Show. When I was teaching kindergarten in 2001, my principal at the time brought it to my attention that the Stock Show offered free field trips to students. I immediately signed my class up — a little after the deadline, but Chris Uhing at the Colorado State Extension office got us in for free. I then pulled off every single resource I could find, and was disappointed that at the time, there wasn't a lot for kindergarten students. I then began collecting books to read to the students about farm animals, and did the best I could before our field trip. I met my current boyfriend, Cody, in 2009, and really started to get involved in the farming life. He is a head mechanic and John Deere Longs Peak, and also runs his own business of buying, selling and repairing tractors at our house. Together, we also lease fields and cut/bale hay. It wasn't until 2011 that I came across the Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom and attended their summer institute. I was also a new member of the Colorado Front Range Young Farmers, and was excited to extend those resources to the classroom. Once I got to the institute, I met Bette Blinde and was very intrigued by the Colorado Foundation for Ag and everything they do for classrooms through Growing Your Future and Live Well Colorado. At the time, I had no idea about the Excellence in Teaching Ag in the Classroom Award, but was delighted to be a part of an article that was written about my second grade students through Live Well Colorado. 3. Why do you feel agriculture education is so important? A. I feel agriculture education is so important because we happen to live in a state that produces many different products. It is very important to the students that I teach, and others that we reach through Front Range Young Farmers, that they know and are able to share their knowledge of Colorado agriculture with others. Eventually, I would like to share knowledge of agriculture in other states as well. I am so thankful that Bette and the Colorado Foundation for Agriculture have sent me to Minneapolis, for the National Agriculture in the Classroom. 4. What would you like to see more of from school districts and teachers when it comes to agriculture education in the classrooms? A. I would like to see school districts and teachers participating more in the free programs that Growing your Future and Live Well Colorado have to provide. I believe that not all teachers in Colorado know of all the vast amounts of free knowledge that we have available to learn about our agriculture in Colorado. I would also like to see teachers taking advantage of the scholarships available to attend the Summer Institute for Ag in the Classroom, and order the products from growingyourfuture.com. I would like to be an advocate for the products that are available, and help teachers set up field trips, and find where the agriculture knowledge can be integrated into their current curriculums and matches with our new Common Core State Standards. 5. What have been the challenges for ag education, and what do you believe will be the biggest challenges going forward? A. The challenges for ag education — at least for me — are finding the resources available, and using the resources to my best ability. I also think it is challenging to pass on what I have learned and done in the past with new teachers. I am currently working on ways to integrate and continue with the second-grade field trips that I began as I have recently stepped into a new position at my current school. This new position is not a classroom position, but it allows me to be able to get others more involved than when I had my own classroom. ❖

Our agricultural history tells of a rich heritage

The history of agricultural education and the Future Farmers of America (FFA) speaks well of a rich heritage and can help tell the story of agricultural production and agribusiness nationwide. A story we need to share with increasing urgency. We learned of the land grant legislation and the establishment of the Land Grant Colleges nationwide. Soon after, Extension education practices and efforts were used to make use of research information and work being done at the agricultural colleges. Formal extension agencies were established in about 1914. The Smith Hughs Education Act established agriculture science and mechanics programs in high schools across America in 1920. Many people have benefitted and made significant contributions to the people in agriculture as a result of these two pieces of federal legislation. Indeed we frequently read articles depicting or telling of the current ways American farmers and ranchers have changed our lives. Yes, the American public needs to know and appreciate more about where and how their food is produced. There are a large number of consumers and people far removed from the everyday activities of farming and ranching today. American heritage stories and histories can play a major role in developing and teaching an understanding of the importance of agriculture and related industries in our daily lives. To do so we recognize the worthy achievements of men and women by awards, honors and through various promotions to societies and halls of fame. This article is about just such a person, even though his career ended some 50 years ago, his achievements are significant and noteworthy. Ralph Wilson of Olathe, Colo., became known as "Prof Wilson." In cooperation with the then Colorado A&M Extension workers he became well known and respected from Grand Junction to Montrose, Colo., and beyond. His efforts and those of his students made high impacts upon agriculture using improved and best practices in farming and ranching. Prof was a 1915 graduate of Purdue University in Muncie, Ind. He arrived in Olathe to become a teacher at the local high school in 1923. He promptly became all things to Olathe High School, as a teacher of science, biology, vocational agriculture and an athletics coach, teaching everything except home economics. Corn clubs were popular and his students excelled in production, preparing and showing farm produce. Their judging skills became very strong netting them many awards as time progressed. Through these efforts, improved varieties of corn, beans and other crops were developed by Prof and others, which were adapted to western Colorado. Along the way fruit crops were being introduced namely; cherries, peaches, grapes and especially apples. These skills and practices too were incorporated into the studies for students and the vocational agriculture curriculum. Prof introduced Duroc hogs and later Berkshire hogs into western Colorado. He became a cattle producer's go-to man, He developed a strong relationship between his boys and the sheep producers of western Colorado. Field trips to carry out best animal practices, selection and handling were to be experienced especially in the spring of each year. Prof's motto was "We are taking boys and making men of them in production agriculture." He established the first vocational agriculture shop in Colorado in an old wooden building, which was still available for use well into the 1960s. His corn club became the very first Future Farmers of America chapter, charter No. 1, in Colorado in 1929. Prof became the first Colorado FFA state prsident and he and his chapter members initiated charter chapters in Montrose, Delta and Center, Colo., in 1928-1929. Other FFA chapters soon became active throughout all Colorado. There is indeed a long history of agriculture, science and mechanics in our public schools as a result of the efforts of many dedicated agriculturally trained teachers. The Olathe FFA chapter has been active continuously since its inception in 1929. Its members have achieved considerable success throughout the years. Many of its members have earned local, state and national degrees through their efforts in the program and the FFA. Several farmer members have served as state FFA officers over the years. The current tecacher/advisor, Jaime Goza, is an experienced teacher serving in his first year as FFA advisor at Olathe High School. Sixty-six students are currently enrolled in his classes. An accurate historical count of state officers, state and national degree recipients are not available. However, records do show of five American degree recipients, 20 state degree recipients, eleven state officers and six state championship judging teams from the Olathe chapter. The 2015 Olathe meats judging team of four persons placed 13th among all teams at the national competition that year. The current livestock judging team placed 10th at the 2017 National Western Stock Show. Their floriculture team has placed very highly this year. Statewide, there are 112 FFA chapters in Colorado, 21 are of which are middle school programs. The number of Young Farmer Education programs is 12. National FFA week will occur Feb. 18-25. Many of the schools in Colorado and the nation will conduct special programs and achievements at their schools. Each of these will help tell the story of agriculture in America. Agriculture and agribusiness from the small acreage, organic or greenhouse grower to the large acreage producers are indeed critical to our American way of life. May this and the many other stories build upon the awareness of and importance of food production in our daily lives.❖

Schools around the country continue the search for ag teachers

Classrooms are buzzing with typical start-of-school excitement across the nation. But at Terry High School in eastern Montana, the learning space expected to be the loudest is devoid of all noise – and students. Table saws and oxy-acetylene torches sit silent in the shop building that for years housed woodshop and welding classes. After a nationwide recruiting effort this summer, the program closed for lack of a teacher. "We included in our search welding, shop, automotive and ag teachers – we just really wanted to maintain any kind of vo-tech program here," said Tammi Masters, principal of Terry Public Schools. "We even tried to recruit local community members to teach on a 45-day basis. We couldn't find anyone." Across the nation vocational tech programs are struggling to find qualified teachers to guide their classrooms. Ellen Thompson is the project director of the National Teach Ag Campaign, sponsored by the National Council on Agricultural Education. She says their job is to work to provide and increase a supply of quality and diverse ag teachers, and to encourage students to pursue a degree in agricultural education. There is definite shortage of ag teachers, but it's not ag ed's problem alone. "What we are dealing with is very similar to what a lot of the vocational trades are seeing," she said. "And this shortage is actually following a national trend of a decrease in the number of teachers in general." For many students, career and vo-tech classes are their "fun" classes – the ones where they build things, take things apart, create and learn through doing. The term vo-tech has technically shifted to the term "career and technology education," or CTE, within the educational system. The national Association for Career and Technical Education identifies 16 career clusters with a variety of specialized pathways – they include traditional subjects like animal science, woodworking and auto repair. But there are relative newcomers like software development and biotechnology. Apart from traditional core academic classes, CTE courses are designed to develop proficiencies such as technical, leadership and employability skills – aptitudes that apply in real-world careers. Stats about career and technical classes show positive effects. According to the ACTE, the average high school graduation rate for students involved in these programs is 93 percent, compared to an average national rate of 80 percent. And they're not just for those entering the workforce immediately. More than 75 percent of secondary career and technical education students pursued postsecondary education shortly after high school. Kenton Oschner is the Colorado State FFA Advisor. He said outside of student development, some of the biggest concerns of an ag teacher shortage are the growing rural-urban divide and the lack of students who understand where food comes from, as well as the glut of ag jobs predicted that may not have qualified applicants to fill them in the future. "I believe one of our purposes is to prepare students for ag-related careers, but [without teachers] we could be looking at a huge shortage of potential employees," Oschner said. So what is causing the shortage? Thompson says with ag education in particular, there are both good and bad factors influencing the deficit. First, there is an increase in demand, but there is also a decrease in supply. "The good is we have seen tremendous growth in ag education programs across the nation – many schools are going from one teacher to two, and districts are opening new programs," Thompson said. The statistics nationwide are stunning. In 2015 there were 11,834 ag teachers nationwide and 1,028 positions open. Of these, 201 were new jobs from program growth and expansion. Nebraska alone added 26 new programs – schools where ag classes had never been taught – just last year. The bad, said Thompson, is there is a 30-40 percent decrease in the number of students entering education majors in general across the nation. Especially within ag ed, a large percent of the graduates are not pursuing teaching, but are recruited to more lucrative jobs in the private or business sector. In 2015, the nation graduated 742 ag ed degree holders, but only 512 of them planned to go into teaching, and 619 left teaching for other opportunities. "These students are highly sought after by industry; they're picked up quickly," Oschner said. After everything shook out, 80 positions nationwide went unfilled and 207 jobs were filled with a non-licensed teacher. About 42 programs closed due to low enrollment, budgets, lack of teacher, or a combination. The stats aren't as clear cut on career and technical classes as a whole as they are with agriculture. "There is a lot of negative stereotyping of teachers in the media and politicians. That belief is being perpetuated across the nation – that it's not a good field to enter," Thompson says. "Our job is to remind students of the intangible benefits of teaching, of the opportunity to influence lives, to make a difference, and to have an exciting, challenging career." Certainly salary has a negative connotation with job prospectors. Average salary across the nation just topped $40,000. However, Oschner points out that industry sector jobs are, realistically, only guaranteed two weeks at a time, and bring about longer hours, more geographic moves and less flexibility than teaching. "Teaching offers a lot of intrinsic benefits that can't be measured with money," he said. So what can be done about the shortage of ag and other vo-tech teachers? To start with, many states offer alternative teacher certification programs. In Montana, ag industry professionals can apply by proving a certain number of hours worked in the industry. Additionally, according to Mike Womochil, who works with Oschner as the Colorado State Agricultural Program Director, ag programs are pulling – or pooling – resources from or with traditional core instructors. Science teachers have an easier correlation, but even social sciences or English teachers are crossing over to teach ag, Womochil said. All agree that support for vo-tech programs must start at the local level. "It's important for communities that already have an ag program to be supportive of the program – volunteer, serve on advisory boards and support professional development for your teacher," Thompson said. Lastly, it's important to realize that teaching as a career has more deep-rooted benefits than money can buy. "The return on time isn't immediate," Womochil said. "You don't get instant gratification. You make a decent living, but the real return is four, five or more years later when your students come back and tell you, 'What you taught me set me on the path to being successful.' That's when you really know why you became a teacher." ❖

Colorado Foundation for Agriculture works to educate non-ag teachers the importance of farming and ranching

With about 48 percent of Colorado's acres devoted to farming and agriculture, no child should ever think that chocolate milk comes from a brown cow. The Colorado Foundation for Agriculture is working to change just that. At the foundation's "2014 Food, Fiber & More AgriCULTURE in the Classroom Summer Institute," which took place from June 23-27 in Fort Collins, Colo., 40 teachers with little to no agricultural background spent five days learning how to better spread information about Colorado's farming and ranching industry, and in the process, how to better connect with their students. This was 2014's second installment of the Summer Institute. The first took place in Montrose, Colo. June 16-20. "I didn't know much about agriculture," said Amy Findley, science teacher at Platte Valley High School in Kersey, Colo. "I work at a school with mostly agricultural-based students, so for me this experience has been really awesome because it helps me to have an understanding of where my students are coming from, so I can relate with them better, and that's really important to me because I want to have good relations with my students and understand them and empathize with them." Bette Blinde, executive director of the Colorado Foundation for Agriculture, said the Summer Institute started 15 years ago as a way to bring teachers into the world of ag, so they understand its importance and scope. "Basically, it was because teachers don't have the resources, they don't know much about agriculture," Blinde said. "People are so far removed from that. So we did this as an opportunity to take teachers and share with them the diversity of Colorado agriculture and information about agriculture so they can learn firsthand." The first day of the program, the teachers are given materials and resources to take into their classrooms, and given lessons themselves on many of the topics the ag world faces. • This year, speakers included Mary Lee Chin of Nutrition Edge Communications, who spoke about GMOs and biotechnology in food, and Ron Carlton of the Colorado Department of Agriculture. "I had no clue there was so much technology actually incorporated into the farming," said Andrew Gagnon, second grade teacher at Pear Park Elementary in Grand Junction. "I knew with the seeds, they were looking into genetics and this and that, but as far as how much technology is integrated into the farming community blew me away." The next two days of the five-day seminar included going to various farms and agricultural facilities around northern Colorado, including dairies, feed lots, water conservatories, meat processing plants, agritourism sites and more. According to Blinde, about 25 different organizations, farms, companies or individuals gave presentations or tours to the class, while 60 additional companies and organizations sponsored the teachers' enrollment. On June 25, one of the stops the class made was at Randy Schwalm's farm, where he hosts the teachers for lunch and lessons. "It's a great opportunity for us to share production agriculture with people," Schwalm said. "I have kind of given up on educating adults. They have their preconceived notions, they watch TV, they get what the media portrays, that agriculture is probably bad or the price of food is too high because farmers are getting it all. I'm ready to educate the kids. To educate the kids, you've got to start with the teachers." On the fourth day of the program, teachers have the opportunity to follow a farmer or rancher, like Schwalm, to see exactly what goes into their work. "I call myself an active environmentalist — not an environmental activist," Schwalm said. "We're teaching that we are the stewards of the ground, the land, the water, the air. If we abuse any one of those three, it affects us personally and financially, the whole bit. I want that experience for the teachers." Jerry Alldredge, member of the foundation's board and Colorado Regional Representative for Nutrients for Life, stressed the importance of teachers seeing firsthand the amount of work that truly goes into the food they eat. "I think a lot of teachers come back with the idea of the diversification. Every farmer is diversified," Alldredge said. "He has to be an etymologist, an agronomist. He has to know how to weld, he has to know about marketing. It's amazing what these guys have to go through on a daily basis just to make it." During the visit to Schwalm's farm, five members of the Windsor High School FFA spoke to emphasize the importance agricultural education has had on their lives. "It's crazy, a lot of people don't understand what agriculture has in the community, but it's everything," said Alex Grimes, historian of the WHS FFA and winner of the Veterinary Science Proficiency Award at the state FFA competition. "From the sunglasses you're wearing to the shoes that you're wearing, and from the food that we just ate and to the can that you're drinking out of. It's all around us. And people need to understand that more, because if people don't understand that, how is it going to continue?" For LeeAnn Bee, the vice president of the foundation's board, the importance of spreading awareness about the agricultural community is paramount. She said that when she married into an agricultural family, she knew nothing about it, and as her knowledge grew, so did her passion for helping others learn as well. While giving a tour on her husband's family's farm, The Bee Family Centennial Farm Museum, Bee saw a striking example that exemplified the case for a push for agricultural literacy. "I actually had a 30-year-old man bring his two children out to the farm," Bee said. "I was doing a tour, and he told his kids that the produce that they eat comes from Safeway, where it lightnings and thunders and rains. And I said, 'Sir, why are you telling them that?' He said, 'Because it's true, that's where it grows.' He's telling his kids something, and I thought, it's scary. So, that's why I'm here. • The Colorado Foundation for Agriculture works year round to disseminate materials to schools and information to educators to bring ag into the classroom. From their Colorado Readers — nonfiction publications geared toward fourth and fifth grade students — to lesson plans and online activities, the nonprofit organization uses donations from a variety of agencies to diversify ag education without great cost to educators. All of the readers and similar materials coordinate with Colorado and National Science standards, as a way to link this information into the required curriculum. "When they go home, they have a variety of resources, both human and print materials and websites and stuff like that that they can utilize to encourage them to use agriculture as a theme to teach other academic subjects," Blinde said. On the last day of the program, teachers reconvene and share their lessons and how they plan to incorporate them into their classrooms. Blinde said the complexity of farming is usually the most universal revelation. "I don't think they realize the care that our agricultural producer puts into caring for the land, the water, the air and the animals," Blinde said. "When they come back on Friday, that what they'll make the most comments about." Bee said she hopes the lessons the teachers learn this week will help show children just how important the world of agriculture really is. "I want kids to know that chocolate milk doesn't come from a brown cow, and that our food is safe, and that we have the ability in this country to produce enough food to feed all of us," Bee said. "I hope that we will get to the place that we understand that our food is safe here and that we are, as farmers and ranchers, trying to produce food that is good for us and not detrimental, either to the economy or to the environment or to people." ❖

Fort Collins elementary students get a taste of agriculture at Colorado State University

Hundreds of Poudre School District third-graders streamed from buses to get their taste of agriculture. The students spent their time Sept. 28-29 at Colorado State University's Agricultural Research, Development and Education Center as part of Agricultural Adventure Day. The kids worked with CSU student leaders in a hands-on experience, which included meeting CSU mascot Cam the Ram, horses and cattle. But this event was no petting zoo. CSU student leaders crafted this encounter to correlate with classroom curricula. During the event, volunteers cycled students through 16 stations where they learned about food safety, crops, soil and water, sheep shearing and wool processing, livestock breeds and more. There were almost 2,000 kids present, all spending about five minutes at each station. The 72 classrooms of kids traded their school buses for tractor-pulled hay wagons to journey from the agronomy area to the animal science site. The gleeful kids paid close attention to their guides, as they moved past cornfields as the dust billowed from the loose gravel and hay chaff lodged in their hair. The kids and their chaperones watched Pete Hoffmann shear sheep. Hoffman, of Top Knot Shearing in Fort Collins said the kids in his family learned how to shear. Hoffmann, now 26, started when he was 15. Since then, he's sheared about 30,000 sheep. "It takes 800 to realize what you're doing," Hoffmann said. "This isn't insanity — it's just fun. If you don't do it because you love it, you're just a fool." At another station, Ron Gentry, a senior agricultural education major at CSU caused loud cheers from Bauder Elementary third graders when he said there were only two rules. "You must have fun and you must get dirty," Gentry said. Gentry said he returned to CSU to complete his degree after a 20-year hiatus. He plans to teach at the high school level after graduation, although his experience Thursday gave him second thoughts. The third graders dug right into the dirt at Gentry's station, where he and other student leaders taught them the difference between sand, clay and loam, and why one is better than the others. Gentry said Agricultural Adventure Day brings it home to these kids whose city upbringing may give them few chances to get their hands dirty and see what agriculture really is. "Eggs don't come from the grocery store and milk isn't made in a factory somewhere. They actually get to see where their food is produced," Gentry said. CSU agriculture and resource economics professor Marshall Frasier has served the student leaders' advisor since Agricultural Adventure Day's started in 2001. It's run every year since, except for 2015. Frasier said in 2000 the students' Agricultural Council wanted to address the public perception of agriculture. He said they wrestled with how they could get consumers to better understand agriculture's role in society, and they decided to focus on future consumers. After meeting with elementary students and teachers, the kids' idea was just a glorified petting zoo, Frasier said. Teachers, however, said they couldn't afford to waste a day of instruction if it didn't help them become more effective in their teaching. That's why the event is tailored to common core requirements. This year, Alex Heeke, a sophomore agricultural business major was responsible for ensuring each station met the curriculum standards created by previous student leaders. Heeke said she rewrote the precision agriculture section that featured a marriage of technology and agriculture in a tractor's GPS system. The GPS system enables farmers to plant seed precisely where it needs to be. This correlates with map reading and measurement skills the third-graders learn in their classrooms. "Third graders are really into maps," Heeke said. "So we really try to do the classroom stuff that the teachers can use." Frasier said Agricultural Adventure works for CSU student leaders, the kids and their instructors. Frasier said the event is great for the teachers because they can refer back to the event in the classroom. As for the CSU students, Frasier said this is all student-developed and student-run. It's based on a core of eight to 11 leaders, augmented by student-run clubs and many freshmen volunteers. They learn first-hand what leadership is about in the real world, he said. "They know they've done something real today," Frasier said. ❖

Rocky Mountain Ag Briefs 2-13-12

On March 9, 2012, the annual Farmer and Rancher Appreciation Dinner will be held at the UNC Ballroom at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colo. The event is hosted by the Colorado Foundation for Agriculture. Colorado grown food will be served at the dinner. Music will be provided by Rocky Mountain Rangers. The Colorado teacher of the year, Cheryl Kula from St. John Evangelist School, will be honored for her efforts in bringing agriculture into the classroom. The dinner is a fundraiser for Colorado Foundation for Agriculture. Funds are used to help supply educational materials to Colorado teachers and students. Tickets can be ordered online at http://www.GrowingYourFuture.com or by calling Bette at (970) 881-2902. Wyoming farmers and ranchers can attend the Masters of Beef Advocacy/Beef Quality Assurance Workshop in Casper, Wyoming on February 20, 2012. The Masters of Beef Advocacy program will begin at 1 p.m. and is free. Producers can expect to gain truth about the facts to address misinformation so they will be able to share the truth with confidence. The Quality Assurance Workshop will start at 5:30 p.m. and will cost $10. Guidelines for beef cattle production will be discussed at the workshop. The deadline for RSVPs is February 15, 2012. Call Angela Grant at (307) 436-3490 or email at AGrant@Hughes.net. Enrollment for two USDA programs began on January 23. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2012 Direct and Counter-cyclical Program and the Average Crop Revenue Election Program will be open for sign-up until June 1, 2012. Those eligible can sign up online at http://www.FSA.USDA.gov/dcp or they can visit any USDA Service Center to complete contracts for the programs. For more information, contact your local Farm Service Agency. Farms that have endured a decade of operations were honored at the state capitol on February 2, 2012. Weld County had 51 farms and ranches on the list of Colorado Centennial Farms. This was more than any other county. Yuma County had 33 listed and Boulder County had 23. For the complete story and list of farms, go to http://www.theFencePost.com/CentennialFarms. Organizations wishing to receive certification to nominate individuals to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board for the U.S. Department of Agriculture can submit applications through March 23, 2012. The board is made up of 103 members and was established by the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985. Organizations must be certified to be able to nominate producers to the board. Those already certified do not need to reapply. Certification forms may be requested from Craig Shackelford at Craig.Shackelford@AMS.USDA.gov.

NAITC Convention focuses on Ag literacy, honors Nebraska teachers

Teaching students about agriculture takes dedication, passion and a desire to continue to learn. Hundreds of educators recently gathered in Loveland, Colo., from across the country June 19-22 to learn about issues in agriculture, connect with other educators, and visit area farms to continue their knowledge of agriculture.  The first day of the convention, attendees attended pre-conference tours and networked with other attendees. The second day the opening session was held, and Don Shawcroft, Colorado Farm Bureau president, talked to the attendees about the importance of teaching young people.  “The desire for knowledge is something we need to instill in our students. Less than 2 percent of people in the U.S. are engaged in production agriculture. This is the conference to improve student attention to agriculture, to how food is produced, and to how family farms, incorporated or not, produce the majority of our food,” he said.  Cat Urbigkit, author, photographer and rancher from Wyoming was the keynote speaker for the opening session. She talked with the attendees about her story, and why education is important. “If we don’t tell our stories, who will?” she said. “You need to tell your students your story.” After the opening session, the attendees broke into the morning session workshops. They included harvest of the month, American history with Ag in the Classroom, From Farm To Plate: A Look at Modern Livestock Farming, The Literacy Cafe The Ag Way, Bringing Web 2.0 Tools Out of The Cloud and Down To Earth, The Gifted Garden: The Gift That Keeps Us Living, Some More Scrambled States, Invasive Species In Your Classroom: A New Twist On The Old Standards, and Being A Friendly Farmer.  After the first set of sessions, attendees could pick between a set of mini-workshops. The sessions included animal care awareness, what’s going down on the farm, conservation classroom, utilization of agriculture in the classroom for a school-wide focus, a cornucopia of activities from corn to caterpillars, these healthy farms, soil to spoon, barnyard banter and agriculture in the west. The session of utilization of agriculture in the classroom for a school wide focus was a workshop on different ways to bring agriculture into schools without agricultural programs.  “Most of our children will not grow up to be farmers, but they may grow up to be community leaders or influential citizens who can make a difference to farmers,” said Jan Hill, a school teacher from Alabama who taught the workshop. The National Teacher Awards Luncheon was then held, and Beth Marlatt of Hulett, Wyo., received an award for being one of five 2012 National Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture winners. Marlatt holds a Master’s of Science in curriculum, with an emphasis in gifted education and technology from Black Hills State University. She is a mentor teacher and an Instructional Facilitator for Hulett Elementary School. She has spent her entire career in Cook County, Wyo., where she has taught kindergarten through eighth grade throughout her career. She has integrated agriculture and natural resources into the class since she started. She has brought agriculture into other classrooms through grant projects such as Journey Thru Wyoming, student-made movies, field trips, classroom collaborations, online games, WEN presentations and finally a series of books that celebrate Wyoming’s natural resources and agriculture. This year’s hardcover book is called “Rough and Tough: An Alphabet Book of Wyoming Cowboys and the Ranch Cattle Industry.” Other books in the series are titled “Bison on the Horizon” and “America’s First,” according to the Wyoming Ag in the Classroom organization. Marlatt likes to use her creativity to meet the Wyoming State Standards through integrated projects. The projects are usually long term, and are intriguing to the students. “The projects are created with the help, input and guidance from the community members. The final projects are then shared and they celebrate with everyone in a big way, often there is a red carpet involved. Beth wants to weave all the skills together in practical way that stretches the students’ knowledge and application to their challenge their creative limits,” according to the Wyoming AITC. In the afternoon, participants decided between an additional nine mini-sessions, and then nine workshops. One of the afternoon sessions, titled Agvocacy and Agricultural Literacy: Tools You Can Use, focused on different ways to teach students about agriculture, such as using online learning games, such as My American Farm. That evening, the Welcome to the West dinner was held. The dinner featured a country western band, Native American dancers, line dancing and a live auction. The third day of the conference attendees attended Workshops-on-Wheels, which visited a wide variety of agricultural operations from horticulture to horses, and hens to dairy cattle.  The final day of the conference, a water festival, which featured a variety of water related workshops, was held. This workshops covered rainwater, composting, riparian areas, water movement and seed starting.  While at the convention, teachers from each state were also honored as the State Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Award winners. The winners from Nebraska were Greg Tebo from Maxey Elementary in Lincoln, and Carma Weisbrook from Mary Lynch Elementary in Kimball. Tebo has had the opportunity to be part of a project funded by the Nebraska Soybean Association and the U.S. Soybean Association. The project, Summer Soybean Science Institute, involves teaching teachers how to use the soybean as a model to enhance existing curriculum, build lessons based on district and state standards, and enhance student learning by enabling students to use an inquiry approach to their learning. “The purpose of the project is to develop a better understanding of the connection between the food supply and demand and its effect on the economics of the world,” Tebo said. A pilot program was implemented in summer 2010 and funding was approved for summer 2011 for students in kindergarten, first grade and fourth grade to participate in the program. Teachers invested approximately 90 hours from June to August. They  developed a better understanding of the soybean plant system and found ways to incorporate that information into their existing science curriculum;  learned how to formulate real scientific experiments that would further develop students’ understanding of how a scientific hypothesis is developed;  worked on soybean research under the supervision and guidance of scientists;  learned that scientific investigation is not just following a step-by-step method of investigating, but that science is “messy” and the process is not always straight-forward, clear and concise. Kindergarten students planted soybeans, learned about the parts of a soybean, wrote facts about soybeans, sang songs about soybeans and participated in a soybean contest. First grade students used soil samples to plant soybeans and used graphs and charts to show the varieties and time allotted for growth. Fourth grade students learned about six commodities and the role farmers have in the world’s economy. They created posters with facts and photos about their commodity in their computer class. They used these posters and food samples to show their expertise at a fourth grade Ag Fair Day where parents and friends were invited to learn about agriculture in Nebraska. Weisbrook believes that agriculture is the heartbeat of Nebraska. Every year at Mary Lynch Elementary School, her class celebrates Agriculture Week with three phases: preplanning, celebrating agriculture week and wrap-up. During phase one, posters are hung in the hallway to pique the students’ curiosity. Weisbrook contacts agriculture organizations for free materials to distribute. The FFA advisor and Weisbrook meet to organize presentations for Agriculture Week. Phase two is the celebration of Agriculture Week. Each day of the week highlights a top five agriculture product in the state of Nebraska. These include beef/dairy, corn, soybeans, pork and wheat. Weisbrook reads books to her class that she purchased through the AITC Teacher Mini-Grant Program. FFA students visit the class to share their knowledge of agriculture with the students. They also teach the students about off-the-farm agriculture-related jobs. The FFA students also prepare an activity for the class to participate in, such as planting corn seeds and racing wheat to the “bins” on the playground. The third phase is time for the students to reflect on what they have learned about Nebraska agriculture. The students write thank you letters to those who provided materials to use throughout the week. They also write thank you letters to the FFA students who presented information to the class. “Agriculture is the heartbeat of Nebraska. As a Nebraska fifth grade teacher, it is important to present vital information to the students so that they can be informed citizens about agriculture,” Weisbrook said.

Rocky Mountain Ag Briefs 1-31-11

The National FFA Organization and the National FFA Foundation have partnered with the UDSA and National Council for Agricultural Education to form a strategic alliance. All groups involved already work toward a common goal of increasing awareness about agriculture and its importance, as well as keeping the industry prepared in the workforce. This partnership will allow the groups to work together so they can provide teachers, students, communities, farmers and agricultural groups the tools and information needed to ensure the sustainability of the industry. For more information go to http://www.ffa.org or http://www.usda.gov. The National FFA Organization and the National FFA Foundation have partnered with the UDSA and National Council for Agricultural Education to form a strategic alliance. All groups involved already work toward a common goal of increasing awareness about agriculture and its importance, as well as keeping the industry prepared in the workforce. This partnership will allow the groups to work together so they can provide teachers, students, communities, farmers and agricultural groups the tools and information needed to ensure the sustainability of the industry. For more information go to http://www.ffa.org or http://www.usda.gov. The National FFA Organization and the National FFA Foundation have partnered with the UDSA and National Council for Agricultural Education to form a strategic alliance. All groups involved already work toward a common goal of increasing awareness about agriculture and its importance, as well as keeping the industry prepared in the workforce. This partnership will allow the groups to work together so they can provide teachers, students, communities, farmers and agricultural groups the tools and information needed to ensure the sustainability of the industry. For more information go to http://www.ffa.org or http://www.usda.gov. The National FFA Organization and the National FFA Foundation have partnered with the UDSA and National Council for Agricultural Education to form a strategic alliance. All groups involved already work toward a common goal of increasing awareness about agriculture and its importance, as well as keeping the industry prepared in the workforce. This partnership will allow the groups to work together so they can provide teachers, students, communities, farmers and agricultural groups the tools and information needed to ensure the sustainability of the industry. For more information go to http://www.ffa.org or http://www.usda.gov. The National FFA Organization and the National FFA Foundation have partnered with the UDSA and National Council for Agricultural Education to form a strategic alliance. All groups involved already work toward a common goal of increasing awareness about agriculture and its importance, as well as keeping the industry prepared in the workforce. This partnership will allow the groups to work together so they can provide teachers, students, communities, farmers and agricultural groups the tools and information needed to ensure the sustainability of the industry. For more information go to http://www.ffa.org or http://www.usda.gov.