This summer nearly 600 teachers from across the state took part in the annual Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom “Summer Agricultural Institutes”. During these week long sessions, teachers took an opportunity to find how they can integrate agriculture into their curriculum during the coming school year. These courses featured opportunities to hear from the AITC program and various commodity groups as well as take traveling workshops to explore careers in agriculture by visiting various local agriculture industries and first hand experiences at farms.
By far, the most exciting part, typically after a couple of brief introductory comments is a panel where farmers share with teachers issues and concerns that they face. These farmer panels are typically my favorite part, and I work to make sure I get to be there for some of these. Farmers share concerns about government regulations at the national, state and local level. Farmers share the lack of understanding that many have about what goes on with a farm. They even share thoughts and comments about labor issues. I am always impressed with their honesty and integrity. More than once I have heard a farmer say, I don’t know about that because we don’t face that issue on our farm. Teachers, and the general public, appreciate honesty!
If I am present, as the conversation wraps up, I try to ask a couple of questions of the teachers about their challenges. Often teachers share their frustrations with the issues of regulations at the state and national level. They also share their frustrations relating to the fact that the general public is out of touch with the practices of modern education. In the end, I feel our farmers and teachers see parallels within their livelihoods.
Most importantly for both, I work to point out that our farmers need to know what is going on in school and our teachers need to know what is going on in agriculture. In an era of turmoil with state funding, public education is even more reliant on the local property tax base. In many school districts across the state, the agriculture sector plays an important role in local funding. I urge teachers to reach out to the agriculture community, and the farmers to reach out to the teachers to find out what is new and emerging in their chosen field. Reflect back to the innovations that have become common place on your farm in the last few years, and realize that many new innovations have also occurred in education. In our work in Agriculture in the Classroom we are fortunate to work with people that are passionate about their career and livelihood-both farmers and teachers and I hope both will take an opportunity to explore what is new with each!
Read more articles by Kevin!