By Evan Bevins
MARIETTA, Ohio (AP) – “Future Farmers of America” hasn’t been the official name of the National FFA Organization for nearly 25 years, and the lessons learned by members of local chapters and agricultural students aren’t confined to the farm either.
“We have someone who wants to be an X-ray tech. We have somebody who wants to be a nurse,” said Ashley Payne, vice president of the FFA chapter at Warren High School in southeast Ohio. “I was looking at being an attorney, something related to agriculture law.”
Students still fix tractors, raise livestock and notch the ears of piglets, but they also use globalpositioning systems to map out local farms and research and make presentations on the digestive tracts of animals using the latest technology.
“It’s the 21st century,” said Krista Hellwig, the first-year agriculture educator at Warren. “Things are changing. Things are not traditional anymore. It can’t be.”
The classes Hellwig teaches her students are different even from the classes she took not so long ago as a student at Woodmore High School in Ottawa County. They’re more structured, with an increased emphasis on inquiry-based and hands-on activities, as well as service learning.
That’s due in part to the state requiring ag classes to be grouped into “pathways” that make it easier for programs to be assessed and for college credit to be earned. Schools can determine which classes to offer under which pathway, which is intended to help retain local flexibility.
Students at Warren generally start with the agriculture, food and natural resources class, which exposes them to basic activities in those areas as well as woodworking, welding and electrical systems, Hellwig said. They’re exposed to a variety of activities, whose specifics may apply to particular career fields, while the general skills – public speaking, record keeping, organization – can translate to a number of vocations.
Warren FFA President Brandon Lane credited his study of parliamentary procedure in FFA with helping him overcome a fear of speaking in public. He also believes that all of the hands-on activities – from picking corn and bagging it for a deer-feed fundraiser to individual projects for fairs – help prepare students for the workforce.
“That starts the work ethic for the kids who have never done any work but sit in front of the TV and play video games,” he said.
Waterford High School agriculture teacher Matt Hartline said when he was younger he thought about following in his father’s footsteps on the family farm.1 2 next >>