Cutting ag programs leads to cutting career preparation

I started my agriculture education at the tender age of 7 when I joined the Colony Hi-Point 4-H club.  I was very involved with my animals and other projects such as cooking and floriculture and looked forward to meetings and fair time.  When I reached my 8th grade year, I can remember counting down the days until I was in high school and could join FFA.  I coudn’t wait to start judging and public speaking in a competitive manner and was even more stoked at the opportunity to run for a chapter office.  When I finally reached high school, I dove in head first and immersed myself with extracurricular activities – basketball, cheerleading, track, volleyball, cross-country, National Honor Society, quiz bowl, band & show choir but the most important of all my extracurriculars was by far my high school’s agriculture program and The National FFA Organization (FFA).

Over the years I earned a lot of honors, awards and offices in FFA and developed critical life skills – communication, public speaking, book keeping and how to be part of a team.  I also learned tons of facts about nutrition, animal evaluation, horticulture, crops and I’m proud to say that I can ARC and MIG weld with the boys!  I now apply the information I learned in FFA and agriculture classes so many years ago to my everyday activities in grad school and I am sure that I will continue to use them in both my personal and professional life.  I can say with 100% certainty that had I not been involved in agriculture in high school, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

If I were a student at Seaman High School, I wouldn’t be able to build that strong foundation of knowledge.  USD 345, which contains Seaman High School, has decided to end the program indefinitely.  The agriculture instructor and FFA sponsor left Seaman at the conclusion of the 09-10 school year to teach at another school.  Seaman has yet to replace him and will not be offering agriculture curriculum or FFA for the fall semester and the school board has yet to decide whether to hire a new teacher.  The reason?

The school board is trying to be “fiscally responsible” and by cutting the program they’re saving money. I don’t think responsible is the correct word in this case.  Inconsiderate, irresponsible, hasty, thoughtless, ignorant – these are all terms that correctly describe the actions of the school board.  A group of students spoke to the school board and strongly discouraged them from ending the program for reasons that I have already stated: FFA and vo-ag equip students with science, technology, leadership and life skills that contribute to preparedness for life and future careers.
I have already written a letter to the superintendent voicing my opinion about Seaman’s irresponsible decision.  Agriculture isn’t just cows and plows – it’s sales, marketing and communication in addition to the production jobs that raise, process and market our food supply.  You’d be hard pressed to find a career or job that wasn’t at least indirectly related to agriculture.  Bankers supply farmers with loans, insurance agents provide farmers with an ease of mind, agriculture lawyers lobby for equal representation of farmers, part-time employees at McDonald’s market and sell Angus 1/3 burgers!  Agriculture is our backbone and it’s time the rest of the country recognizes that. 
Please – take part in the effort to keep agriculture alive and send a letter to
Seaman High School
c/o Mike Mathes
901 Lyman Rd
Topeka, KS 66608

Kansans, if there was ever a time for action in your community – that time is now.  First Seaman, then your school. 

Until next time,

oh, p.s. – I heard on the radio that Seaman recently constructed a NEW football stadium. That may or may not be true but was that fiscally responsible?????


2 responses to “Cutting ag programs leads to cutting career preparation”

  1. Money is always a sad reason to end a program. Besides the salary/benefits of the teacher, agriscience programs are some of the most self-funded educational courses in a school. Between grant dollars, Perkins funding, student SAE projects, and HUGE fundraisers (plant sales, maple syrup, fruit and nut sales, golf tournaments, tractor restorations, livestock projects–just to name a few), a good ag program will fund itself. Closing an ag program doesn't show financial responsibility, it shows a lack of commitment to your students and their futures. There are few educational classes/programs that make the difference in students' lives that ag programs do. School administrators all over the country are looking for ways to improve student learning and school experiences through agricultural education–especially in urban districts. It's a shame that rural districts, where agriculture and FFA truly have their roots, are failing to take that initiative. Great post and I hope things work out for the best.

  2. Amanda,

    Thanks very much for your comments. You are so right about the funding opportunities. I'm not from Seaman school district but I hope they can get things worked out.