Pomp and Circumstance
This feature is part of a series of blog posts spotlighting the unique members of the AgVocate Facebook community for their efforts to educate, share and help bridge the gap between consumers and the agriculture community. This May, we are happy to highlight Bev Flatt, co-owner of Flatt Rock Farms in Nashville, TN, former Youth Ag Summit Delegate, and Global Communications Team member for Bayer Animal Health in Germany.
When I was 14-years-old, I was given advice that completely changed my life.
Think back to the summer before you started your freshman year of high school. I was a gawky teenager who spent my days taking the two little girls I babysat to the community pool every day. We would splash around in the water and devour ice cream cones and walk back to the house at the end of the day. But my favorite part of the day was when their mom and dad would come home, but not for the reasons you might think.
Their dad had the coolest job in the world through my eyes. He was a food scientist. He traveled around the world and ate food for a living. It couldn’t get any better than that in my 14-year-old opinion. So, when I asked his advice on how to pursue that type of future, he recommended I enroll in the local agricultural education class in my little town of Republic, Missouri.
The first day of high school completely rocked my world and changed my circumstances. The third class of the day hit, and I walked into a classroom filled with plants and dirt and diagrams of farm animals on the wall. I had not grown up in the country so these concepts were completely foreign to me, but ultimately changed my life. Today, I am a member of the Global Communications Team for Bayer Animal Health in Germany. And, I know I would not have ever considered a future in agriculture had it not been for the advice of someone I admire.
This month, thousands of students are walking across the stage to the sounds of pomp and circumstance. They are given a diploma and a handshake and told to go out and change the world. How many of those students had a mentor like I did? How many of those students are headed off to college with an undeclared major? What can we do in the agricultural industry to better educate students and promote agricultural literacy?
For the past five years, I have worked in Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) with the zoned high schools. We recruit local businesses to assist teachers in educating students so they are prepared for the real world and can pursue their passions. During my time working with these students, I have found a few easy ways businesses and individuals can get involved that make an incredible impact.
Every freshman at McGavock High School (around 800 students) takes agriscience. This year, after completing a book study on “The Man Who Fed the World,” we were able to have a Skype session with Julie Borlaug, the granddaughter of Norman Borlaug, and Bollem Rajkumar, a mechanical engineer in India.
1. A Day in the Life of a Farmer
Allow a student to complete a job-shadowing day in your business and share your knowledge. Many times, when students hear the title “farmer,” they picture dirty overalls, run down tractors, and milking cows by hands. By inviting a student to shadow you for a day on your farm or in your place of work, you can expose them to the realities of the agricultural industry. Flying drones, setting GPS guidance systems in the tractors, evaluating commodity data, and even talking through a marketing campaign, can quickly show students what it is like to be a farmer in the 21st Century.
During the second year of high school, students in Nashville take Large Animal Science. After studying a few units in class, they take a field trip to Flatt Rock Farms to gain hands on experience and see the theories they are learning put to the test.
2. Act As A Judge Judy
In my experience, teachers love to have businesses and individuals in the classroom to judge or grade an assignment. Whether it’s an informative speech that students must present to the classroom or a science project, having a person from outside of the classroom adds an extra level of accountability for the students and encourages them to perform at their highest level. Visiting a third grade class to hear a presentation on weather patterns or listening in on a senior’s capstone project around theoretically growing crops on Mars can be incredibly fulfilling, and help establish a great relationship with local teachers.
3. Teacher for the Day
Have you ever been trying to learn a new concept and it just doesn’t click? This spring, I struggled through the assigned reading from my Beef Master class. I would pour over documents and charts but fail to grasp the concept; however, as soon as the extension officer would bring a guest speaker to class, it would click. This can happen in the schoolroom too! By volunteering as a guest speaker, you can bring real-world perspective to the classroom on a one-time or recurring basis. And, if you aren’t keen on public speaking, providing a teacher with examples to use in his or her classroom can make an incredible difference to a student who is just shy of understanding the concept.
4. Change the Curriculum. Change the World.
One of the newest accountability measures to come down the US Department of Education pipeline is around Industry Certifications; however, many schools or local boards of education may not be familiar with industry certifications that are relevant in the agricultural industry. It is up to us to be proactive and recommend industry certifications and help edit curriculum to meet industry standards. If you have experience in insecticide application or have received your Beef Quality Assurance Certification, this is the perfect opportunity to share your knowledge with your local school and help students’ graduate college and become career ready.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association National Conference was held in Nashville, TN this year. Representatives from Bayer Animal Health came to the classroom to talk about their careers and capture student testimonies.
5. An Oldie, but Goodie
One of the strongest memories I have from high school was the day I visited a meat processing facility. We walked the floors of the plant, poked our heads into the storage areas, and saw everything from purchasing offices to the legal department. Seeing the theories that I had studied in class actually in practice was incredibly eye opening and has stayed with me for more than a decade. By hosting a field trip to your farming operation or agricultural business, you can promote your career field and allow students to see your industry up close.
Regardless of the way you want to be involved in your local school, my advice is to reach out and offer up the opportunities. You may never know what 14-year-old kid may be listening and what life you might change.
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