Agricultural Education is the teaching of agriculture, natural resources, and land management. At higher levels, agricultural education is primarily undertaken to prepare students for employment in the agricultural sector. Classes taught in an agricultural education curriculum may include horticulture, land management, turf grass management, agricultural science, small animal care, machine and shop classes, health and nutrition, livestock management, and biology.
Agricultural education is common at the primary, secondary (including middle and high school in the United States), tertiary (including vocational schools and universities), and adult levels. Elementary agriculture is often taught in both public and private schools, and can cover such subjects as how plants and animals grow and how soil is farmed and conserved. Vocational agriculture trains people for jobs in such areas as production, marketing, and conservation. College agriculture involves training of people to teach or conduct research in order to advance the fields of agriculture and food science. General education informs the public about food and agriculture.
Disciplines closely tied to agricultural education include agricultural communications, agricultural leadership, and extension education.
In the United States
The rapid growth of agricultural education began during the late 19th century. In 1862, the United States Congress created the Department of Agriculture to gather and distribute agricultural information. The Morrill Act, which provided the land-grant schools, became law that same year. The Hatch Act of 1887 gave federal funds to establish agricultural experiment stations. The first dairy school in the U.S. was created at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1890.
Government support for agricultural education has increased during the 20th century. For example, the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 created what is now the Cooperative Extension System (1988). The Smith-Hughes Act of 1917 and the George-Barden Act of 1946 financed high-school instruction in farming. Woodlawn High School (Woodlawn, Virginia) was the first public high school in the United States to offer agricultural education classes under the Smith-Hughes Act. The Vocational Education Act of 1963 funded training in other fields of agriculture.
Agricultural science and education expanded after 1900 in response to a need for more technical knowledge and skill in the use of newly-developed agricultural technologies. This development led to the use of modern farming methods that required fewer farmworkers, resulting in larger, corporatized farms and ranches. This development increased the need for more agriculture science and education.
Other legislation influenced the development of agricultural education into what the field is today. It has developed throughout the last century from various laws and pieces of legislation.
The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 required all public schools to provide a free and appropriate education to all students with disabilities. Under this provision, children with disabilities were now allowed to enroll in agricultural classes. The Americans with Disabilities Act, enacted in 1990, further required public schools to give students with disabilities equal opportunity for education to all other children in the country, and as a result, it increased opportunities for students with disabilities participate in agricultural classes.
Educate America Act of 1994 raised benchmark standards for public education at the districts level, increasing curriculum and development requirements for all classes, including agricultural ones. The School-to-Work Opportunities Act, also of 1994, required teachers to teach students tasks and disciplines that would help their students prepare for employment once they graduated, of which practical education in agriculture was a major part. Finally, No Child Left Behind (Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001) further raised standards for students in public schools and increased requirements of teachers in order to reach these standards, affecting agricultural education as part of the general curriculum of many schools.
Agricultural education at the high school level focuses on three main categories: classroom instruction, supervised agricultural experience (SAE), and active involvement in the National FFA Organization (Future Farmers of America).
Classroom instruction of an agricultural class teaches the students the basic concepts of the particular course through hands on learning and experience. Students will be taught the information in the curriculum in order for them to understand and develop skills in the application and problem solving issues that would occur in an agricultural setting.
The Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) portion of the agricultural curriculum is when a student must use the knowledge they have gained in the classroom instruction and use it in real life situations. Several topic choices are available for the student to choose between, whether it is on a farm setting, exploratory setting, entrepreneurship, agribusiness, or research projects. The student will choose a task from one of these topic areas and conduct a research experiment throughout the course of the agricultural class. The teacher is involved in the process and will help guide the student along the way. SAE programs give students the opportunity to take the information learned in the classroom setting and use it on an agricultural topic that interests them. This portion of an agricultural education will give students an idea of how it is working out in the real world and solving problems that will arise in the work field.
The FFA is a national organization that all agricultural classes at the high school level are involved in. The agricultural teacher is the leader of that particular schools FFA chapter, and will guide students’ activities and programs held throughout the year. FFA is an educational program designed to teach students leadership skills in both agricultural settings and everyday life, encourages personal growth in students, boosts self-confidence, builds character, encourage healthy lifestyles, and give students opportunities to be a part of the agricultural economy. FFA chapters will volunteer in communities, conduct banquets for FFA members and their families, raise awareness of agriculture, compete in FFA competitions, and attend national FFA conventions.
The Young Farmers Association is a requirement that any agricultural teacher must meet. This is a group led by the agricultural teacher that meets usually monthly. The group will consist of all the local farmers, citizens, or anyone interested in learning more about agriculture and the new methods that are being created. The Young Farmers Association is designed so that the technologies made in the agricultural field will be introduced and used in the economy, and gives agricultural teachers the opportunity to meet local citizens and reach out in the community.
Colleges and universities
Land-grant universities awarded more than three-quarters of all agricultural degrees in 1988. These state schools receive federal aid under legislation that followed the Morrill Act of 1862, which granted public lands to support agricultural or mechanical education. Land-grant universities have three chief functions: teaching, research, and outreach, or extension.
A bachelor's degree in agricultural education generally leads to employment teaching agriculture up to the high school level or in the agricultural sector. Students are required to complete agriculture classes as well as education classes in order to become qualified to teach. A master's degree is required in order to teach at the college level. The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), the largest national education association dedicated to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for careers, provides resources for agricultural education. An agricultural education degree also gives the qualifications to do extension work for universities and agricultural companies and organizations.
The following universities provide pathways to complete certification requirements of their home states in secondary agricultural education:
- Alcorn State University
- Angelo State University - Texas
- Auburn University
- Cornell University
- Colorado State University, Degree Requirements
- Illinois State University, Degree Requirements
- Louisiana State University
- Delaware Valley University
- Middle Tennessee State University
- Montana State University
- North Carolina State University
- North Dakota State University
- Oregon State University
- The Pennsylvania State University, Degree Requirements
- South Dakota State University, Degree Requirements
- The University of Idaho
- Sam Houston State University - Texas
- Sul Ross State University - Texas
- Texas A & M - Kingsville
- Texas A & M - Commerce
- Texas A&M University
- Texas State University
- Texas Tech University
- Tarleton State University -Texas
- University of Arkansas
- University of Missouri, Degree Requirements
- Utah State University
- Washington State University
- West Virginia University
- West Texas A & M - Texas
Colleges of agriculture additionally prepare students for careers in all aspects of the food and agricultural system. Some career choices include food science, veterinary science, farming, ranching, teaching, marketing, agricultural communication, management, and social services. Colleges and universities awarded about 21,000 bachelor's degrees in agriculture per year in 1988, and about 6,000 master's or doctor's degrees.
Each land-grant university has an agricultural experiment station equipped with laboratories and experimental farms. There, agricultural scientists work to develop better farming methods, solve the special problems of local farmers, and provide new technology. Research published in scholarly journals about agricultural safety is available from the NIOSH-supported National Agricultural Safety Database. The American Dairy Science Association provides research and education scholarships focused on the dairy farm and processing industries.
The Cooperative Extension System is a partnership of the federal, state, and county governments. This service distributes information gathered by the land-grant universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to farmers, families, and young people. County extension agents, located in most countries (1988), train and support about 3 million (1988) volunteer leaders. Agents and volunteers carry out extension programs through meetings, workshops, newsletters, radio, television, and visits.
Professional organizations in the United States related to agricultural education include the American Association for Agricultural Education (AAAE), the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE), the National Association of Agricultural Education (NAAE), and The Council for Agricultural Education.
4H Club is considered a youth development program that teaches children about sciences, leadership, research, etc. 4H club has over 6 million members nationwide and is the largest youth development organization in the United States. 4H members use hands on learning to reach goals and help in communities. Members of 4-H carry out group and individual projects dealing with conservation, food and agriculture, health and safety, and other subjects. The 4-H program in the United States is part of the Cooperative Extension service.
Somewhat similarly, the FFA is a national organization that teaches students leadership skills and is designed to help members become more well rounded citizens in the agricultural field. The FFA is an integral part of the program of agricultural education in many high schools as a result of Public Law 740 in 1950 (Currently revised as Publication 105-225 of the 105th Congress of the United States), with 649,355 FFA members (2016-2017). Local chapters participate in Career Development Events (individually and as a team), each student has a Supervised Agricultural Experience program (SAE), and participates in many conferences and conventions to develop leadership, citizenship, patriotism and excellence in agriculture. The National FFA Organization is structured from the local chapter up, including local districts, areas, regions, state associations, and the national level. The FFA Mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education.
Outside the US
The history of agricultural education predates USA activities and derives from, the development of Scottish, Italian and German colleges. The land grant approach of the USA owes much to the Scottish system in particular. Changes in higher agricultural education around the world today are highlighting implicit approaches that have hampered development and exceptional advances that have fed the world. the process has been described in one text (below) which takes a global perspective.
Agricultural education in other countries resembles that in the United States. Canada has its own 4-H program. Agriculture Canada distributes information on new farming methods and maintains experimental farms, research stations, and research institutions throughout the country. BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation operates in the province of British Columbia. In Australia, each state has several agricultural research stations and an extension service. Great Britain has a program of youth clubs called Young Farmer's Clubs that resemble 4-H. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations works to train people throughout the world in modern farming methods. The United States gives technical assistance to farmers in developing nations through its Agency for International Development (AID).
As of February 2015 Agriculture in Australia employs over 235,300 people in the agriculture, fishing and forestry and fishing industry. This industry alone equates to 12% share of the GDP earning close to $155 billion a year. The farmers own a combined 135,997 farms covering approximately 61% of the land mass.
Given these figures the agricultural programs in place in school and universities in very important to the future of the county. Several high schools operate across the country specifying in agriculture education. Predominantly these high schools are set in the rural areas with access to land. On the majority of cases the students often travel 1000 km to attend schools, taking up residence at the schools as boarders for the school term. The one of the biggest in Australia is Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School in central New South Wales.
The Agriculture in Education programme launched by the Australian government in 2015 helps teachers better understand the products and processes associated with food and fibre production and gives students an opportunity to understand the importance of agriculture in the Australian economy. Topics covered by the materials include: designing and making a financial plan for a market garden, free range chicken farming, food security, and sustainable production practices in food and fibre. The agricultural environment has changed enormously over the past 15 years, with greater emphasis on product quality issues, vertical integration from production to consumer, diversity in demand options, and environmental namely drought, welfare and ethical issues.
In Western Australia, The Western Australian College of Agriculture is the primary provider of high schools in the state providing excellent educational opportunities at six campuses located near Cunderdin, Denmark, Esperance, Harvey, Morawa and Narrogin.
Each Campus has modern facilities on commercial sized farms and offers Year 10, 11 and 12 programs for male and female students. The students study a range of School Curriculum and Standards Authority subjects leading to Secondary Graduation and the Western Australian Certificate of Education and also complete vocational qualifications from Industry Training Packages. The major focus is on the study of agriculture but the program may also include horticulture, viticulture, equine, aquaculture, forestry, building construction, metals and engineering and automotive. Each Campus offers some specialist programs that can lead to tertiary study and apprenticeships and careers in a range of agriculture related vocations.
Tertiary studies located in Perth are available at Curtin University, Murdoch University and Muresk Institute offering degrees in Agriculture including Agricultural Business Management and Agricultural Science.
Western Australian is in a precarious position and faces several challenges, fact that agriculture in Australia is affected by an ongoing shortage of labour and of skills. Labour supply is being adversely affected by an ageing workforce, retirements by baby boomers, seasonal nature of the lower skilled workforce and an inability to attract sufficient young people to work in the industry.
10x15 Long Range Goal for Agricultural Education in America
"By 2015 there will be in operation 10,000 quality agricultural science education programs serving students through an integrated model of classroom/laboratory instruction, experiential learning, and leadership and personal skill development. Further, all students will be members of the FFA and have a supervised agricultural experience that supports classroom and laboratory instruction.' .-Team Ag Ed
The Case for Growth and Quality in Agricultural Education
Of the critical issues facing the nation, few are more compelling than improving the academic performance of public schools and ensuring a stable, safe and affordable food supply. Today agricultural education is positioned to contribute substantially in these arenas through a major national initiative. Under the direction of The National Council for Agricultural Education, the "10x15 Long Range Goal for Agricultural Education" employs a comprehensive strategy engaging eight high-priority initiatives. The focus of the unprecedented effort is twofold: create new programs in communities not yet served by agricultural education and FFA, and ensure the quality and high performance of current programs providing personal, academic and career education in agriculture. While the goal of "10x15" is to grow the number of agricultural education programs from 7,200 to 10,000 by the year 2015, the clear emphasis is on quality.
Several factors make this effort timely and essential. First, the public's expectations for higher student achievement are leading to dramatic increases in accountability, standards, rigor and relevance throughout education. Especially critical is the need to raise math and science proficiency. Second, the industry of agriculture, already concerned about meeting growing domestic and global demands for food and fiber, is eager to identify the future managers, leaders and workers who will ensure the future security and productivity of agriculture. A forecasted shortage of well-educated workers is adding urgency to the issue. Also, concerns about food safety, security and independence are registering at the highest levels of agribusiness and government. Lastly, local communities are intent on cultivating leadership and securing effective participation from their citizens. Through the intra-curricular programs of agricultural education and the FFA, a half-million students are developing skills in leadership, communication, team building and civic engagement. They will be prepared to provide for the social, economic and cultural well-being of small communities and large urban centers alike.
The work of "10x15" is concentrated in eight national task forces operating over the next several years. Their scope of work includes national program and content standards; teacher recruitment and preparation; alternative program design; data reporting; public advocacy; brand communication strategy; and program funding. Driving the work of "10x15" are more than a hundred top leaders drawn from today's Team Ag Ed, including teachers, students, university educators, state education leaders, the National FFA Organization, alumni, business and industry, and key stakeholders
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- Holistic Management International
- Washington State University's Online Organic Agriculture Certificate Program
- AET Africa | Portal for Agricultural Education and Training in Africa - Provides information on agricultural education in Africa
- PROTA - Provides information on the approximately 7,000 useful plants of Tropical Africa and to provide wide access to the information through Webdatabases, Books, CD-Rom's and Special Products.
- Association of Career and Technical Education Agricultural Division
- Found Family Farm Learn by taking a tour at a small family farm!
- AgrowKnowledge - The National Center for Agriscience and Technology education
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- National FFA Organization (Future Farmers of America)
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