Ag literacy needed for savvy shoppers & ag job opportunities

Our nation’s education system is at a tipping point. Currently, the government is obsessed with standardized testing, and as such, achieving specific scores is more important than a well-rounded education. Don’t get me wrong, the core areas of study — math, science, reading and writing — are incredibly important, but so are life skills that are being pushed aside with this new intensity of only four principles of learning.

What do I mean by life skills? How about basic handwriting and keyboarding? What about classes that explore creative thinking like art? And how about skills like balancing a checkbook, budgeting, grocery shopping, or knowing where your food comes from?

Recently, the CHS Foundation gifted $3.44 million to the University of Minnesota to transform agricultural education from kindergarten through higher education. The donation will be used to support new opportunities for students to learn more about agriculture.

"The CHS Foundation is committed to growing the next generation of agriculture leaders," said Linda Tank, president, CHS Foundation, in a recent press release. "Together with the University of Minnesota, we are cultivating, preparing and helping agriculture leaders thrive now and into the future.”


The gift will be used to create a CHS agriculture education technology lab, support agricultural adventure-based learning project curriculum, integrate agriculture-infused curriculum in K-12 classrooms, develop agricultural literacy programs in conjunction with 4-H and the Minnesota Youth Institute, create agricultural and science programs at the Bell Museum, and start an agricultural education endowed fellowship at the University of Minnesota.

"We are charting a new course for the future of ag education with new technologies, interdisciplinary curriculum and experiential learning that combine best practices in agriculture and natural resource sciences," said Brian Buhr, dean of the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences at the University of Minnesota, in the press release. "This critical support from CHS and the CHS Foundation will better prepare future agriculture leaders and educators while strengthening rural communities.”

This isn’t the CHS Foundation’s first donation to support agricultural education; in 2015, the group gave $11.2 million to support the development of future agriculture leaders, improve agriculture safety and enhance rural vitality.

To learn more about the CHS Foundation and its goals to achieve agricultural literacy in K-12 students, click here.

The CHS Foundation’s gift is not only important for educating and informing our future consumers so they are aware of where their food comes from, what it takes to get it to grocery stores, and how the United States’ modern food production system allows them to spend so little of their disposable incomes on food, but it also will help prepare students for future careers in agriculture.

A recent survey conducted by Purdue and the USDA revealed that in the next five years, nearly 58,000 jobs will be available in the areas of food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and the environment, and the industry is currently only able to fill about 60% of those positions.

According to Logan Hawkes for Southwest Farm Press, “USDA officials say the survey and university study indicate that with a growing population, college graduates with expertise in agriculture-related areas are essential to U.S. food security, sustainable energy and environmental quality. They point out that by 2050 there will be more people to feed as the population grows, and a sustainable food supply and quality food will be the backbone of agriculture and the support system that will be needed to feed the world.

“Also, as the demand on the industry increases, job opportunities in the agriculture industry grow, and so does the diversity in career opportunities within the industry. The study says in the future, college graduates with expertise in agriculture-related areas are essential to U.S. food security, sustainable energy and environmental quality, and they will be in great demand.”

The study revealed that nearly half of the agricultural career opportunities are in management and business; 27% will be in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, 15% will be in foods and biomaterial production; and 12% will be in education, communication and governmental services.

The old stereotype of the farmer in overalls is long gone. There is an abundance of agricultural career opportunities that rely heavily on those core areas of education — science, math, reading and writing — and I hope programs like what the CHS Foundation has put together will help wed agricultural literacy with the major areas of focus in our current educational system.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.

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