Although I may not wear my FFA jacket as often as I did four years ago, I still feel the power of the blue and gold and the importance of agriculture education programs. Four years ago I was serving as the Illinois FFA State Secretary where I traveled over 33,000 miles in one year across Illinois promoting agricultural education and the FFA. Throughout my year in office, I was surrounded by many passionate and influential educators and business men and women who all cared deeply for the FFA and agricultural education just as I did.
The question I was always asked, whether speaking with the Illinois State Board of Education, FFA members and agriculture education students, legislators, business people or educators, was “How important is agricultural education?”
At one time the answer came naturally, but now I’m more likely to stop to reflect. Back then I knew all I had learned in the classroom would take me further in life and develop my skills in premier leadership, personal growth, and career success. Those three skills were the foundation students grained through a quality agriculture education program. Without my experiences in agricultural education, I would not have the insight I have now. I never would have become passionate about the agriculture industry.
While I was traveling and visiting rural and urban communities, it amazed me the questions I was being asked. They were questions that never crossed my mind but to many unfamiliar with agriculture, they were commonly questioned. “Where does chocolate milk come from” and, if it “came from a brown cow” or “How did my food end up on my table? Was it from the guy behind the counter at the market?” Although these questions made me chuckle, more importantly, it made me realize how valuable agricultural education is to the consumer.
Agriculture education involves more than just learning the basics of seed production. It provides the opportunity for people to understand agriculture is not just farming; it’s a sustainable way of life.
Throughout my years in agriculture education I developed a greater understanding and knowledge of production agriculture. I also cultivated the ability to stand up for something I felt passionate about, and learned to share my views in front of thousands of people. I developed skills in networking and problem solving, and learned how biotechnology can make a difference in our crop genetics. Although there are so many things not listed, my time in agriculture education ultimately proved my passion for agriculture will never dwindle and my voice can always be heard. This must be why I love communicating agriculture’s message.
With a growing population and a demand to feed 9 billion people by year 2050, the agriculture industry needs talented, driven and passionate youth willing to make a commitment to agriculture. Many of these individuals will not have the production background I enjoyed growing up in. They must gain this knowledge and understand the depth of the industry. This is best accomplished through high school agriculture programs, where students have the opportunity to learn and develop the skills necessary for us to remain world leaders in agriculture.
Finishing her bachelor’s degree in Ag Communications with a concentration in Advertising and minor in Leadership in May 2011 from the University of Illinois, Megan’s professional interests include educating others about agriculture, public speaking, photography and design. Born and raised on her family farm in the Central Illinois area, Megan is an advocate for agriculture and agricultural education, cultivating agriculture one moment at a time.