The Importance of Agricultural Education

By Susan Black

Are your students agriculturally literate? That is, by federal government definition, do they know about food and fiber production and processing, domestic and international marketing, and policies affecting competitive agriculture worldwide?

If your answer is no, consider the words of Donald Sprangers, a science teacher at Washington Academy, a private high school in northern Maine. Sprangers believes that agricultural literacy should be a national priority.

Sprangers clearly places a high priority on agricultural education. He received a 2007 Excellence in Teaching Award from Agricultural in the Classroom, a 50-state program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He and his students created community garden and greenhouse projects. His students did research on renewable energy and learned about restoring salmon habitats in local watersheds. They studied precision agriculture, using GPS and remote sensing technologies to plant, cultivate, and harvest crops.

Across the country, another teacher also places a high priority on agricultural education. Second-grade teacher Dianne Swanson, recently named an outstanding teacher by the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, strives to educate inner-city students about agriculture.

Seven years ago, Swanson started “an agricultural revolution” at Long Beach Unified School District’s 450-student Los Cerritos Elementary School. She and her students designed a 22-bed garden where they grow vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Last year, she added an “urban farmyard” with a barn and coops for chickens, ducks, rabbits, and guinea fowl. 

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