THE CHALLENGE: In a state where agriculture offers myriad career options, how can a school use agriculture education (ag ed) and participation in FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America and now The National FFA Organization) to teach valuable skills and introduce students to a world of opportunities?
THE CHAMPIONS: Agricultural education teacher and FFA adviser, Chad Schimmels and a passionate group of friends and alumni who, along with the rest of the Eustis-Farnam communities, help students achieve lofty goals.
THE SOLUTION: By creating a comprehensive offering of classes, Mr. Schimmels has blasted the perception that agriculture is just simple farming. The school’s robust ag ed curriculum includes everything from agronomy (the study of soil management) to food science, and even marketing and business management for agriculture. The skills students learn effortlessly translate to careers within and outside of agriculture, and Mr. Schimmels makes sure his students learn how to use their knowledge to succeed outside of school.
THE RESULTS: The Eustis-Farnam FFA team’s hard work has really paid off. The school boasts prizes from regional, state and national FFA competitions in a range of events, from Ag Ed Quiz Bowl to livestock judging. FFA participation at Eustis-Farnam isn’t just for students interested in careers in agriculture. Mr. Schimmels’ students have gone on to be everything from farmers to bankers. The school recognizes that participation in FFA provides students with training and learning opportunities that will be beneficial regardless of what career they pursue: dedication, critical thinking, problem solving, and the value of hard work
A recent study by Kansas State University showed that the level of thinking required to successfully compete in livestock judging – making decisions based on a certain criteria - teaches students to think at or above the level of doctors, lawyers and engineers.
Beyond the understanding of career opportunities in agriculture, agriculture education provides valuable lessons about where food comes from. Students are tasked with understanding how food is produced, sold and marketed, giving them a 360-degree view and making them smarter consumers, too.
One of the reasons the Eustis-Farnam FFA chapter has been so successful is the community support it receives. Parents and community members have high expectations for their students, and their support has allowed a small school like Eustis-Farnam to compete successfully against schools with thousands of students from other states.
- Variety is the spice of life: Create a well-rounded ag ed curriculum that teaches a wide variety of skills; from basic ag ed learning and food science, to public speaking and leadership opportunities. One of the most important ways to encourage participation in FFA, is to educate students and parents about the deeper set of skills that are learned.
- Find some fans: FFA participation can be intensive, and parental (and community) involvement is key to student success. Not only do Eustis-Farnam parents model the value of hard work, they hold their students up to a high standard and support the FFA program at various competitions.
- Nose to the grindstone: Mr. Schimmels tells his students, “you can compete with anyone; we just have to out-work them.” He believes in holding his students to a high standard and giving them ownership over their success. Hard work is what differentiates the Eustis-Farnam FFA program and what has made them succeed when competing against bigger schools with more resources.
- The National FFA Organization
- Nebraska FFA Foundation
- Eustis-Farnam Public School
- Nebraska Agricultural Education