Michigan FFA - Providing opportunities in agriculture and beyond
By Sam Loscalzo, Michigan Good Food Charter Graduate Assistant and Liz Gensler, MSU Center for Regional Food Systems
Agricultural education is happening throughout schools in Michigan in many ways, one of these is through the FFA.
The National FFA organization is a career and technical organization that promotes agricultural education in middle and high schools across the USA. In 1988, Future Farmers of America changed its name to simply FFA. This name change reflected the diversity of career options available to students entering the agriculture industry, from biology to engineering and entrepreneurship.
In Michigan specifically, FFA membership has risen in recent years, with 6,717 members during the 2014-15 school year. At the same time, over 10,000 Michigan secondary students were enrolled in an agriculture, food and natural resources (AFNR) course. “Students are drawn to FFA and AFNR courses due to increasing employment opportunities in the agriculture industry and the need for strong leaders in the workplace,” states Randy Showerman, Michigan FFA State Advisor and director of the Institute of Agricultural Technology at MSU.
FFA is an intracurricular, school-based agricultural education program for seventh through twelfth graders. The program is comprised of three major components: FFA, classroom instruction, and Supervised Agriculture Experiences (SAE). The FFA component focuses on leadership development. The classroom element teaches about broad agricultural and agribusiness concepts and theories, which are then applied in the hands-on SAE program.
107 Michigan schools provide school-based agricultural education with the three-component model. Any student within those schools may enroll in a state-approved AFNR course. Students enrolled in an AFNR course may also join their local FFA chapter.
FFA and AFNR courses prepare students to be leaders in Michigan’s diverse agriculture and food industry. Lora Finch, an agriscience teacher and FFA advisor at the Homer Community Schools, explains, “I teach highly applicable skills, while adhering to the benchmarks and covering science and career standards as well. The students in agrictural science classes have the opportunity to expand their leadership, communication and teamwork skills.” Finch’s students range from those who come from an agriculture background to many who live in an urban settings and just want to learn more about agriculture or leadership, or they may simply want to get involved.”
Involvement in FFA can open many opportunities to students. This summer, five of Homer’s FFA members attended a national conference in Washington, DC. Finch notes, “In the little town of Homer, this is the only local opportunity that can send these kids to such a stellar program to learn these life-changing leadership skills.”
Recently, Michigan students have been offered another incentive to enroll in AFNR courses and join FFA. High school students who complete a state-approved AFNR education program and obtain an FFA degree are now eligible for six credits at Michigan State University (MSU). Showerman was instrumental in this development and says that MSU supports the concepts of career preparation and leadership training that come from FFA involvement.
The six credits serve as a “scholarship” to students who have completed these high-quality programs and encourages them to pursue a career in agriculture, food, and natural resources, according to Showerman. He believes the credits will have a “direct impact on student enrollment at MSU,” with more students enrolling in an AFNR-related program at the university. Members may also earn credits through various community colleges across Michigan.
Celebrate National Teach Ag Day on September 24, 2015! http://www.naae.org/teachag/teachag_day.cfm
Agriculture, food and natural resources students can earn MSU credits during high school:
Three circles education model image courtesy of mytexasffa.org/parents/what-agriculture-education