Agriculture is the most vital industry and needs to be cultivated by the next generation. Agriculture, food, and allied sectors roughly contributed $1.264 trillion to US GDP in 2021. Agricultural education is essential to that development.
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The Current State of Agriculture and the Need for Agricultural Education
The importance of agriculture to the United States economy cannot be overstated. Agriculture is responsible for 10.5% of employment in America, providing food security and economic stability for millions nationwide. In addition to providing food for Americans, it also helps support other industries like manufacturing, tourism, and transportation.
The need for a sustainable food supply has become even more urgent as climate change continues impacting our planet’s natural resources, including water supplies that help grow crops used by farmers worldwide.
As temperatures rise around the globe due to climate change effects like drought or flooding rains, farmers need more resilient methods for growing their crops to withstand these changing conditions. According to government data, 146 million people are at risk for flooding in their communities in spring 2023.
Finding these resilient methods requires new research into how best practices should change based on these conditions. However, only a few scientists work specifically within this field because there aren’t enough funding opportunities.
Historical Events in Agriculture in the USA
The Homestead Act of 1862 provided a means for people to acquire federally owned land in the West, which was then developed into farms and ranches. The Morrill Act of 1862 established colleges dedicated to teaching agriculture and mechanical arts, known today as land-grant universities.
The Hatch Act of 1887 provided federal funding for agricultural research conducted at state colleges. This paved the way for today’s land-grant university system and Cooperative Extension Service (CES). The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 linked CES with local communities through county offices that provide information on farming practices, food safety issues, and more via annual workshops held throughout each state.
Historical events also occurred in the agricultural field. For instance, rice agriculture was originally brought to the USA by the Gullah people. According to the Road to Civil War website, the Gullah are the west coast Africans brought to America as captives. These people united and formed the Gullah community.
These people brought the culture of rice plantations to the United States. You can find more information about the origins of rice in America on the internet. Similarly, many such historical events played their part in making agriculture in the USA it is today.
The Benefits of Agricultural Education
Agricultural education is more than just learning the basics of farming and ranching. It’s also about better understanding the world around you. Agricultural education helps develop a sense of community, self, and purpose that can be applied to every facet of life. In the last decade, agricultural land has decreased significantly, with only 893.4 million acres remaining as of 2022. Proper education can save the same. But there are many other benefits, too.
Improved Crop Yields
Improving crop yields is the most important thing you can do to ensure food security, economic growth, and a better future for farmers.
- Food Security: Improving crop yields means more people can access healthy food. In fact, there’s even a name for this: “The Green Revolution.” The International Rice Research Institute reports that since the 1960s, rice yields have increased by 500%. That’s because they’ve been able to develop new breeds of paddy plants, and now those plants are grown all over Asia.
- Economic Growth: In addition to providing more healthy options for consumers worldwide, increased crop production also leads directly to more significant economic growth and lower prices at local stores like Walmart or Target, which means more money left over after paying your monthly bills.
Sustainable Farming Practices
Sustainable farming practices are the foundation of sustainable agriculture. Sustainable agriculture uses natural resources, soil, water conservation, and other techniques to produce food in an environmentally friendly way. It also promotes the health and well-being of people working on farms while maintaining economic viability.
Conventional farming involves the intensive use of pesticides and fertilizers, which can damage ecosystems and human health. For the unversed, the US consumes 10% of the global fertilizers. Organic farming aims to reduce chemical inputs into the soil by avoiding pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.
Research is a significant part of what we do in the agricultural sciences. Research can be defined as “the systematic investigation into and analysis of facts, concepts, and principles involving the scientific method.” In other words, it’s the process of asking questions about something you don’t understand or know enough about and finding answers. Then putting those answers into practice to help others understand what you learned.
Research is essential because it helps us learn about plants and animals to better feed people worldwide and even beyond. Agricultural research also helps us know how to grow food without harming natural resources like soil or water supplies by using fewer pesticides and fertilizers.
Agricultural scientists also create new technologies such as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which are plants or animals created through genetic engineering techniques such as inserting genes from one species into another one so that they have certain traits from both parents instead of just one parent, like regular hybrids do today.
Agricultural Education at the Primary and Secondary School Level
Agricultural education is a vital part of the primary and secondary school curriculum. It helps students learn about where their food comes from, how it’s produced, and the science behind agriculture. In addition to these crucial lessons in science and math, agricultural education can also help students develop a sense of pride in their local community. This pride can lead them toward making healthy choices about what they eat.
Although an essential part of human lives, many young people today know very little about where their food comes from or how it is produced. The average American child spends less than one hour per week outside playing sports or engaging in other physical activities.
This lack of physical activity makes it more difficult for children and adults to make healthy choices for dinner each night because they don’t have enough calories stored.
The Role of Technology in Agricultural Education
Technology plays a role in all aspects of agricultural education, from the classroom to the field. Today’s technology vastly differs from what was used only a few decades ago. It has changed how we teach and learn about agriculture, leading us to new ways of teaching that better reflect how people learn today.
Technology can help teachers and students:
- Increase access: Technology allows access to more resources, including online databases, videos, virtual tours, etc. This means they’re easier for teachers who don’t live near an urban center where local experts could lend their expertise when needed.
- Improve quality: With so many tools available now, thanks primarily due to their rapid growth over recent years, there’s no shortage when talking about how great things have become since then, either.
The future of agriculture is bright, but the industry faces many challenges. The need for agricultural education has never been greater, and it’s up to us as educators to ensure that our students have the skills they need to succeed in their careers. Agricultural education programs need funding and support from policymakers who understand how vital these programs are for our nation’s economy and food security.