Remember your most recent trip to the grocery store to buy tomatoes? Your shopping list probably said simply: “tomatoes.” But which kind? Organic, conventional, non-GMO, locally grown, grown in Mexico, imported from Canada? Heirloom, vine, grape, cherry, Roma, beefsteak?
To avoid being overwhelmed, you probably looked for the roundest and
plumpest tomatoes, put them in your bag, and hoped you chose the best.
Now imagine you are grocery shopping with students enrolled in an agriculture education class.
Gina, a sophomore, may suggest heirloom tomatoes for a caprese salad so the
flavor and texture will be front and center, but she would recommend red beefsteak for salad and Roma for a long-simmering tomato sauce.
Thomas, another student, explains the difference between organic, conventional, and non-GMO—all of which are perfectly safe to eat. Thomas might tell
you every item of produce in the store must meet requirements set by the Food
and Drug Administration, which manages science-based standards for the safe
growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fruits and vegetables for human
Gregory, a freshman, provides background on the imported Canadian tomatoes.
These tomatoes are harvested in technologically advanced greenhouses developed in
the Netherlands to grow food in crushed stone and coconut husks, all without soil.
Sometimes, extra carbon dioxide is added to the air to promote faster growth.
Then Sarah, an eighth-grader, asks if you’d like to try a tomato grown in her
award-winning aquaponics farm, a tank that raises both aquatic animals and
plants—all sans soil.
These agricultural education students possess a competitive edge over their
peers: critical thinking. While they are just as engaged in social media and rapid
technology as their peers, their exposure to agricultural education provides skills
that set them apart. They learn how to have a constructive debate—in person—
about food production, precision farming, food supply chain developments,
animal and worker welfare, and sustainability.
Most importantly, these students are aware of the global challenge to feed an
additional 2 billion people in 30 years—and they will be leading the industry at
that time. These students learn how to think critically and ask the relevant questions to help them make the best choices, from purchasing tomatoes to pursuing a
Ag Ed and Life Skills
Agricultural science is about far more than agriculture. It teaches life skills and
core concepts to serve students their entire lives, showing them real-world applications for science that open their minds to more dynamic problem-solving methods.
Some agricultural science students will find jobs outside of agriculture and
the food industry, but every one of them will grow up to buy food. The more they
know about how to ask good questions, the better citizens they will be, whether
they are tomorrow’s scientists, marketers, homemakers, or lawmakers.
Can agricultural science influence the pursuit of a career path? Absolutely.
I was a shy kid interested in livestock. As a freshman, I enrolled in my first agricultural education class and joined the Wichita Falls FFA chapter. During this time, I
discovered my public speaking ability, which allowed me to engage in discussions
on topics both big and small. I started to see that I could be bold and have the
courage to speak up. As my confidence grew, I became a leader, eventually serving
as a Texas FFA state officer.
The more our future leaders see that
everything comes from somewhere,
everything has a cost, and that every
choice has an effect, the better they
will be able to make strong decisions
for a healthier world.