Agriculture education programs spreading in Nebraska

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) - More than a dozen schools across Nebraska have added agriculture education classes this year, a change that teachers say reflects a growing interest in the state’s largest industry.

State Director of Agriculture Education Matt Kreifels tells the Grand Island Independent (http://bit.ly/1XyAcIY ) that 13 schools added new programs this fall in the biggest jump since the 1950s.

And Kreifels said three other schools wanted to start a new program but couldn’t because they weren’t able to find a teacher.

“Agriculture is such a good industry to be involved in,” Kreifels said. “That’s one of the reasons we have people wanting to add ag and FFA to their schools.”

The recent successes of farming in the state along with the variety of careers related to agriculture have helped boost interest in the field, the newspaper reported. Roughly 300 different occupations are classified as part of the field.

“They need people, future employees and business owners, to go into agriculture in order to sustain our economy,” Kreifels said.

Juliana Loudon grew up in Lexington where her parents ran a feedlot and farmed, and now she teaches agriculture classes in Wood River.

“In recent years, (agriculture education has) been growing,” Loudon said. “People are seeing a need for it.”

Loudon teaches classes in natural resources, biotech and plant science and food science. She has a core group of 15 FFA members and an average class size of 17.

Dave Johnson, the agriculture education teacher at Doniphan-Trumbull, came out of retirement to help establish the program there. Previously, he had taught for 25 years in the Wilcox-Hildreth school district.

“It’s a very progressive farming community,” he said. “There’s a lot of youths that are going to go back into the field, and it’s a good thing for them to have the experience of agriculture.”

The teachers hope their students will gain a better understanding of the field of agriculture even if they don’t pursue it as a career.

“We need informed, proactive young people to spread the word about agriculture and what it has to offer,” Johnson said.

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