Young Iowans considering a career field might consider one where there are twice as many jobs today as there are people to fill them. Ag education is a field that’s growing, even though I-S-U professor Robert Martin says the number of schoolkids is down a bit. He says more of them at the high-school level are taking ag education than ever before, mostly because the curriculum has changed.
Martin chairs the I-S-U Department of Agricultural Education and Studies, and sums up the change in outlook of ag education. “It’s not just about ‘cows, plows and sows’,” Martin says. In other words, it’s not just about production agriculture any more — the definition of agriculture has changed, and expanded. He says today, city kids as well as those leaning toward a farming career take ag education, because there’s a lot of science in it.
It looks at the inter-connectedness with natural resources, conservation, forestry, food processing, ag sales and service, and the “green industry” including biotechnology and even aqua-culture. There’s so many things going on in the field still called agriculture today, Martin says, “It kinda boggles the mind.”
Professor Martin says high-school ag-ed curriculum today has taken on a science focus instead of revolving around just farming. The job opportunities have expanded considerably, Martin says. The whole definition of agriculture is changing rapidly and he says it’s kind of exciting. He says there’s a great need for educators at the high school and community-college level, and schools like I-S-U are trying to appeal to young people to come get degrees in ag education so they can fill those teaching jobs.
Not to put down the importance of farming, but Martin says it takes fewer people than ever before to produce food and fiber. By contrast, jobs are expanding in other industries like value-added processing for the basic commodities, and that’s why more kids are crowding into ag education classrooms, even in urban areas, than there were a decade ago.