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The Power of Youth’s Ag Education

09 Nov

By Evan M. Tate

To begin, it was an absolute honor to represent NCBA and YPC at the recent National FFA Convention. A record attendance made for an exciting time and a great opportunity to proclaim the endless benefits of our organization. It makes for a pleasurable experience when you can meet NCBA members from around the country and converse over pertinent beef issues.

With that said, I can go on for days telling you all the great accomplishments made such as handing out over 400 teacher packets, making hundreds of people aware of the MBA program and visiting with numerous college students about YPC membership along with state and collegiate affiliate opportunities, all of which are true and gratifying. Nonetheless, I feel it a must to shed light on one of the discouraging trends which was ever so evident throughout the week. I went in with a “pre-game” mindset of educating those who stopped by our both. The goal was to enlighten the passerby’s with the not-so well known statistics of our great industry but my ignorance was truly bliss!! I made the assumption that “all” agriculture education programs provided the dirty-handed, stained clothes opportunities that I recollect upon. In a very short time, out of necessity, I switched my prepared beef statistic and demographic questions to what I considered elementary or ground level physiology questions. One of OUR industries greatest shortcomings was made obvious when I asked a senior ag student (who took animal science) what the gestation length of a cow would typically be? I expected and would have accepted a range of answers, nine months five days, 283 days etc. What I received was an answer which was equivalent to the gestation length of the domestic jack-rabbit!! Their purposed estimation meant that each cow could produce 4 to 5 calves per year via natural method. Dumbfounded is probably the best adjective to describe my facial expression. It was then that I began to question something’s!! How could I criticize the general public for their ignorance of the hardships incurred by cattlemen across the world so that they may have access to a healthy food source when WE as an industry haven’t done do diligence in educating the youth – not even those in an agricultural curriculum?

This one answer was followed by numerous of like type and kind throughout the week – and these abstract answers were not exclusive to students, that’s right, teachers as well!!!  The easy thing to do is blame the teachers!! “They just don’t care enough to learn for themselves!” Or, “They are to busy with educational requirements to focus on the small stuff!” (Insert your version of an ear-aching buzzer noise)!! WE as an industry have not made it convenient for educators to provide students with proper TRUTHS about the beef industry!! I had numerous ag teachers stop in the booth asking for references so that they may have access to facts to impart upon their students!! What does this tell us?

I believe it alludes to the fact that we should not be complacent with our efforts!! With the previous said, may I purpose yet another question to you? Is paying our annual dues to NCBA enough? Dare I say my membership card proves that I am “Involved?”  Personally, does my role in YPC entitle me the ego-inflating label of being “part of the solution?” After a short period of pondering, I proclaimed a resounding answer of NO!! If we are going to fulfill our YPC mission of “righting the ship” we have to make ourselves more available for reference of those industry TRUTHS. Furthermore, we have to be at events such as the National FFA Convention in support of those who support the agricultural based youth!! OUR absence only allows more voids in the mindset of soon to be household consumers. Think of it this way, I believe its ok to assume that very few of the students there will actually pursue a degree in agriculture. So, their agriculture education and understanding of where their food actually comes from will soon end and at that point, they along with everyone else will be subjected to the falsities of modern media! We have a short time to provide this group of students with a sound education as pertains to the beef cattle industry.

What’s the action item in all these ramblings? It will be different for all of us. For me, it was making my personal cell phone available to those agricultural teachers needing a reference, or wanting to talk to someone who actually owns a cow. I often take for granted that students enrolled in inter-city agricultural programs don’t pass by grain elevators and auction barns on their school bus ride each day. Just the fact that I’m available to tell my story and they (uninformed) know it, creates a different dynamic. At this point, my operation and day to day life are transparent, yet not to the degree that I am allowing the opposition to cast its ugly shadow over my words! I encourage each of you to re-evaluate your “involvement” status. Make the effort to educate! As an organization we must be a presence where youth are assembled in order for us to tell our story!! There is second point of improvement for myself. Recall my described reaction to the student’s answer. My facial expression was not in anyway tactful thus causing the feeling of belittlement to the student. I instantaneously built a barrier between us without saying a single word. At that point, nothing I said was creditable. We must be cognitive of not only what information we transpose but what manor that we do it in.

If any of you have any specific questions about our efforts at the convention, please feel free to contact me at anytime!!

God Bless!!!

Evan M. Tate

YPC Board of Directors

Agricultural Policy Chairmen

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One response to “The Power of Youth’s Ag Education

  1. Deb Seibert

    November 10, 2011 at 7:52 PM

    As a high school agriculture teacher of 27 years and 20 National FFA conventions, I have overseen our agriculture curriculum evolved from a pure production to a food system/agribusiness approach program. It is a daily challenge to gain and maintain student interest in agriculture with all the other competing subjects and endless education mandates. Sounds kind of like our current struggles of producing agriculture commodities and correctly informing the public about the agriculture industry.

    Just like you are striving to tell the true story of beef and portraing a positive image to the public we to are trying to overcome the stereotype of Vo-Ag being labeled as a “dirty-handed, stained clothes opportunity”.

    Your statement “I believe its ok to assume that very few of the students there will actually pursue a degree in agriculture” is probably an off target assumption speaking for the students I and my fellow ag teachers bring to the convention each year. Many do go to the convention looking for exhibitors supplying information about career guidance and college opportunities.

    It looks like ag teachers and beef producers need to do need to do a much better job of partnering and networking to teach each other who we are.

    We would LOVE some high school level beef agribusiness teaching materials like the Pork Quality Assurance program has provided to us. I do get the daily Beef e-mail and regulalry share the info with my students.

    We look forward to interactive educational displays at the FFA convention by NCBA in the coming years. We would also love to see NCBA offering teacher workshops at our National Association of Agriculture Educators convention. There will be 100+ professional development workshops next week at this year’s NAAE convention.

     

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