For Jeanna James, a well-rounded education means more than taking classes in just reading, math, history and science.
“We need to be educating our students in agricultural literacy,” James said. “Where does your food actually come from? That is the very basic thing. If it was all up to me, all students would take some kind of introductory agricultural class.”
James is an agriscience teacher at Southern Door School, and the district’s Future Farmers of America advisor. She wants her students to know the basics of food production, and how the skills they learn in school could land them a job in the field.
“Our students need to understand the vast amount of agriculture careers that are out there,” James said. “Too often if they think about agriculture and a job they go directly to the farmer/producer, which is absolutely true, but the industry has expanded so much now that more and more people in their careers are part of the agriculture industry.”
One of James’s students, Sam Mueller, has taken that understanding to heart. For his Supervised Agriculture Experience (SAE), a work-based agriculture project, he’s going to take over the plot of land behind his parents’ home, plant on it, and make a profit.
That’s a big undertaking for a high school sophomore. Mueller’s project is entrepreneurial, while other students research agriculture topics, run science experiments, job shadow or get jobs on farms for their SAEs.
Mueller received a $1,000 grant from the National FFA Foundation to help him with his startup costs, like purchasing farm machinery and seed. The money will help, James said, but it hardly makes a dent in the cost of a tractor.
But what Mueller learns from the experience of buying a tractor and planting a field could be priceless.
“He will grow the crops he’s picked out this spring and summer,” James said. “They’ll go through the harvesting season and whatever he’s making off of them come harvest will then go back into his project.”