Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Today I share Ag STEM. STEM stands for Science, Techology, Engineering and Mathematics. Ag is the backbone of life and the STEM program in the US has gotten all of our attention, even in agriculture. The STEM could be an important piece of the stem of plants that represents the backbone agriculture is to our life.

Pluck the leaves off these corn plants and you will find a stem attached to a root system that feeds the whole plant.

It's no secret that the suburbs and five acre lots have consumed a lot of farmland, and that small family farms are giving way to bigger operations run by fewer farmers. It would follow that K-12 agriculture education should also be on the decline, but nothing could be further from the truth. While times have changed and the agriculture education your father and mother received is not the same offered today, ag education is as strong as ever.Until recently, nearly everyone studying agriculture was male and the only courses offered were in the basics of farming. When people think of ag education, some think of the red barn and the bib overalls and the pitchfork, but that's not what it's like today.

Ag education relevancy has come through demand and necessity. The demand for the same type of ag education offered in the 1970s is gone. What used to be classes in the business of maintaining and selling crops and animals has given way to classes in horticulture, natural science, wildlife, economics and animal husbandry.

Now it's science, math and engineering. We still have to teach kids how to farm, bow it's science, math and engineering in the classroom. We use a lot of hands-on learning techniques to teach with a common language that relates to other subjects like science and economics. For example, in ag classes students learn how photosynthesis works firsthand.

It is part of creating an aggressive, engaging agriculture program to teach students real-world context to the science and business of farming. Fewer students have gone into agriculture, but they still want to know about agriculture. People think they know how food gets to the table, but they don't. Ag education has stayed viable because it has become more recognized as providing academic knowledge of the science of agriculture. While the number of students using ag education to run a farm is down, the number of students interested in agriculture is not.

This is because the average age of a farmer is around my age, 60 years old. Ag careers have more demand than ever today because one farmer in business requires more people to supply his needs and move his staple into food, fiber and fuel. It is a vast, powerful and integrated sytem taken for granted because it is so smooth.

If you like the outdoors or rural life and can master STEM in your curriculum, you can write your own ticket.

This beautiful blue sky today is the limit.

Ed Winkle

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