Inviting students to your farm or ranch gives a firsthand look at what farm life is like. Follow these tips from Ag Pen Pal volunteers on how to host a successful field trip at your farm or ranch! Continue reading
Inviting students to your farm or ranch gives a firsthand look at what farm life is like. Follow these tips from Ag Pen Pal volunteers on how to host a successful field trip at your farm or ranch! Continue reading
I have been a part of the show industry for about ten years now and I still get asked the simple question “Why do you show cattle?”. As I grew older and became more knowledgeable about the show industry, this was one of the best questions anyone could ask me. Being able to talk about something I love and learned so much from is beyond the best. I have grown up on our family farm and cow/calf operation all my life and there is nothing I am more proud to be a part of. Showing allowed me to fall in love with the cattle industry and gave me the chance to be successful in something that isn’t easy and takes a lot of hard work, but why do I show?
Showing cattle has taught me how to accept failure and move on from it. There is no worse feeling than receiving no achievement for all the hard work I put into these cattle but losing has taught me to push myself to be better. Trust me, any show kid knows how much work we put into our livestock. Waking up right when the summer sun is coming up to beat the heat to rinse, exercise, blow out, and feed these spoiled animals is not easy. Every single day we are pushing ourselves for the hope to have our cattle to their best potential at the end of the year.
Showing has brought my family closer together. I would not be where I am today without the help of my family. The miles on the road, fast food suppers, and all the laughs is something I will always cherish. My little brother, Nicholas, just started showing a couple years ago and he is already doing better than me. I am so excited to teach him and watch where he goes with the industry I fell in love with so long ago. My Dad has pushed me to be where I am today and was the one who started this incredible journey for me. He has taught me so much and I will never be able to thank him enough. My mom has never missed a show once and the endless support I receive from her and the rest of my family is something I will always be grateful for.
I have met so many great friends and families from the showing industry that I know I will always have lasting relationships with. I know I can always count on them for a helping hand to fit a leg, carry tack, move cattle to the wash rack, or even just a nice conversation. I have to thank the show industry for all the amazing people I have met and continue to meet.
Not only has showing helped me develop better personal qualities to be a more well-rounded, successful person, but it also introduced me to something I will continue to hold on to. Through all the hard work each and every day I put into my show cattle, I know I will always continue to do my best.
So, why do I show? It is my life, my passion, and my happiness.
Emily Groeteke is a junior at Boone Central High School. After graduation, she plans on attending the University of Nebraska Lincoln and plans on majoring in Agribusiness and a minor in Animal Science. She is very active in many activities, especially 4-H and FFA. Agriculture is the main focus in her life, and will continue a future in this industry.
We put it in our cereal. Kids drink it in their sippy cups. It is used as an ingredient in many of the things we make, yet it is something that most kids don’t get enough of. That’s right, I mean milk!
For this blog, I wanted to learn more about something I don’t know much about. I chose dairy as my subject to dive into, and because of this reason I got the opportunity to spend some time with some of my relatives on their dairy farm, Beauty View Guernseys, just west of Wahoo, NE. Continue reading
Nebraska Farm Bureau has identified sixteen social media savvy student members to join our Crew. The Crew is a group of Nebraska Farm Bureau student members who share their love of agriculture through social media. Each member is selected in the spring and participates for one year. A Crew member:
Follow along this year as these students bring to life rural America through their work on social media!
Growing up in the middle of Omaha and growing up with agriculture I got the unique opportunity to see first-hand the disconnect between consumers and producers. I grew up on my family’s 38-acre farm with sheep, goats, horses, and pigs. My farm life experience taught me more than just about what the world agriculture means. It taught me responsibility, respect, leadership, how to be caring, work ethic, and determination; Each day I am thankful for the way I was raised.
With many Nebraskan’s removed from farms and ranches, a responsibility is given to us to share the story of agriculture. I have taken this responsibility personally. As an Agricultural and Environmental Science Communications major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln I am learning and growing as a communicator. I have found new tools and perspectives to help me reach a variety of audiences and then help them realize how important agriculture’s story is to me and why it should be important to them. One of those tools is the Agriculture in the Classroom Program.
The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation’s signature program is Agriculture in the Classroom. This program creates standard based materials for Nebraska Youth and Educators. Nebraska provides resources such as books, posters, activities and lesson plans about beef, pork, corn and soybeans. Each of these resources explains what happens from production to the everyday use of agricultural products of consumers. A part of Ag in the Classroom in Nebraska is the Ag Pen Pal program. This program helps urban classrooms in Nebraska relate with the agricultural community in Nebraska.
The Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom Program is a part of a larger program called National Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC). National AITC is supported by the United States Department of Agriculture and helps provide a network of opportunities. AITC is striving to help community members appreciate and understand the food and fiber system that supports us all. Their goal is to see agriculture is valued by all.
National Agriculture in the Classroom is where I began my search for curriculum and resources that I use to teach urban youth in Omaha. Having teaching aids at your fingertips makes it impossible to say that you cannot share your agriculture experiences with whomever might have a question or misconception. If in any situation I need a resource to help communicate the ins and outs of agriculture production I can be sure to have unlimited help with the National and Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom Programs at my side.
With many Nebraskan’s removed from the farm, a responsibility we now have is to share the story of agriculture. It is so important to me to see our society becoming agriculturally literate because the agricultural community has made me who I am. I owe my work ethic, friends, family, and future career to the agriculture industry.
I hope to someday have a career that allows me to help integrate agriculture into school curriculum, that reaches out in the marketplace to the general public about the real story of the products they are purchasing and that makes the importance of agriculture known on a local, state and national level.
By: Abby Steffen
I grew up in Northeast Nebraska, in a very rural area. Most of my summer days were spent on my grandparent’s farm, learning about agriculture before I even knew what the word “agriculture” meant. I would run through corn and soybeans while they grew in the fields, I would sit and watch my grandpa bring the cows into the milk barn, I would giggle as baby calves fought over which one got to suck on my fingers. At the end of the day, I knew what the food was that was on my supper plate. I knew how it was raised, how it was harvested, and how much work was put into getting that food from farm to fridge to fork. Knowing these things humbled me in a way I cannot describe, but also gave me some peace of mind to be able to see what I was eating and putting into my body. I wish every kid in America would be able to grow up with these types of experiences, but I know that is not possible. There are many children who are now completely removed from farms and ranches. They aren’t provided with many opportunities to learn about agriculture. The Ag Sack Lunch program is trying to change that.
In 2010, the Ag Sack Lunch Program was created to educate Nebraska fourth-graders, teachers, and parents about the different agricultural industries in Nebraska, all while providing 5,000 sack lunches each year. Each Ag Sack Lunch Ambassador is given a set of presentation cards that give the children a visual to look at during the presentation. The cards have fun facts that help the students not only learn about the seven main industries in Nebraska, but also make connections about how these industries impact their lives. They learn about how much land in Nebraska is devoted to farming and ranching, and also that 1 in every 4 jobs relates back to agriculture. The Program covers both specific sectors of the livestock industry, such as beef, dairy, swine, and poultry; and also crops like soybeans, corn, and wheat. In their sack lunches, the students receive a ham, roast beef, or turkey sandwich. They also get carrots, Fritos corn chips, a rice crispy bar, mayonnaise and mustard, and a deck of cards that have fun facts about each industry and look just like the cards the ambassador presents with. At the end of the presentation, the group walks through every item in their lunches and talks about which industry they came from.
This is now the Ag Sack Lunch Program’s seventh year and I have worked as an Ag Ambassador for two years. I can honestly say it has been one of the most rewarding and educational life experiences I have ever had. It has kept me humble and open minded, as I did not grow up in a very diverse agricultural area. For many classes I presented to, I was not surprised when students knew most of the answers. However, once I began to present to more urban centered schools, there were times I felt truly heartbroken. Some students I interacted with did not even know where the meat on their sandwich came from before the store. I could see the want to learn in the students’ eyes. When it finally clicked for them, the smiles on their faces was enough to make me fall in love with the Ag Industry all over again.
Agriculture is a huge and important industry in the state of Nebraska. It is crucial to the economy, the environment, and of course, to providing enough food to feed the growing population. Unfortunately, as more and more generations are being removed from farms and ranches, agricultural knowledge is not being passed along. Not many people know how this industry works and there are not many schools in Nebraska who implement ag-related courses. How can we expect people to understand and care about an industry and lifestyle they aren’t even familiar with? This is why the ag-literacy work that we do in the Farm Bureau Crew and in programs like Ag Sack Lunch is so important. By learning how to communicate to people of different ages and lifestyles we can improve ag-literacy in Nebraska. We can get people more involved and interested in agriculture to strengthen the future of the industry. In The Crew, I get to share different stories in agriculture through videos, photography, social media and blogging. In Ag Sack Lunch, I get to talk to students about where I grew up and how important agriculture is to people, especially in rural areas.
The experiences I have gained by working with The Crew and as an Ag Sack Lunch Ambassador have really made me appreciate the area in which I grew up and the educators who understood the importance of our state’s Agricultural Industry. I have experienced first-hand that programs like The Crew and Ag Sack Lunch are so important and influential to the Agriculture Industry. In the future, it will be up to their generation to find more sustainable food practices in order to feed the growing population while keeping the economy and the environment in check. They are the future of agriculture, and sponsored programs like The Crew and Ag Sack Lunch are preparing them in fun and interactive ways!
Nebraska Farm Bureau has identified ten social media savvy student members to join our Crew. The Crew is a group of Nebraska Farm Bureau student members who enjoy agriculture communication and social media. Together, The Crew will work on reaching a larger audience with pro-ag messages and will help put a face to agriculture through social media in conjunction with Nebraska Farm Bureau. Members of The Crew have access to unique training sessions, such as exploring social media strategies on Capitol Hill.
NFBF is excited to introduce our Crew members to you! For the next year these students will help promote agriculture and rural America through their work on social media!
Hello! My name is Abby Steffen, unlike many of my Crew-mates, I did not grow up on a farm. However, I did grow up in the rural town of Crofton, Nebraska. I have been exposed to many aspects of agriculture since I was a little girl; my grandparents owned a small farm not too far away with a variety of livestock and crops. I spent many summer days watching my grandpa work and sometimes I even got to help. As I moved into high school I became very involved in my town’s local FFA chapter. Junior year, I was appointed chapter Reporter and the following year I was voted as President. It was my early childhood experiences and my involvement in FFA that sparked my interest and passion for communication agriculture.
Now, as a sophomore at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I am majoring in Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Communication. I am also active in the Ag Sack Lunch Program, a UCARE research project, and student organizations such as the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow and Collegiate Farm Bureau. I am looking forward to the potential adventures that will come my way!
“Yeah I live on a farm!” That’s what I would say when my friends from high school, in populated Omaha, Nebraska, asked. I was under the impression that I lived on a nice size farm and was contributing majorly to the agricultural industry. Then I came to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and met people who lived on farms a hundred times larger than mine. I was discouraged, but soon realized I was contributing in my own way.
My name is Catherine Jones and I am from a small farm in Omaha Nebraska, but I am making a big difference when it comes to the future of agriculture. My 48-acre farm was just big enough to raise livestock for urban youth to exhibit in 4-H. They got to experience how to raise livestock and how agriculture contributes to their daily lives, all while living in the metro. This is where I realized the disconnect between the population and our state’s agricultural industry. I made the decision to come to UNL and study Agricultural Environmental Sciences Communication and minor in Animal Science and Ag Business. Living in the city on a farm I got to see both worlds and the misunderstandings upfront, this gave me the passion to be an advocate for agriculture!
My name is Corin Pelster, I am from Elgin, Nebraska and have had a passion for agriculture my whole life. Growing up on my family’s ranch I got to experience first-hand the hard work that is put into agriculture. I was extremely active in my schools FFA chapter throughout high school where I gained a significant knowledge of how important the agriculture industry really is. It wasn’t until my last semester of senior year, though, that I decided I wanted to pursue a career in agriculture for myself, and it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am currently a junior Agribusiness major with a Banking and Finance option at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with intent to graduate December 2017. I have always enjoyed talking about agriculture with others and knew this would be a wonderful opportunity to advocate for agriculture!
My name is Courtney Nelson. I live on a farm in east central Nebraska where we grow corn, soybeans, and alfalfa. We also own a family farm in Kansas where we grow wheat and milo. As part of my SAE, I rent 40 acres of land on which I grew corn this year, and I also own market swine. I am a senior in high school, and I am very involved in a variety of activities. My hobbies include watching Nebraska volleyball and playing the piano. I have always been surrounded by agriculture, but I didn’t realize my passion for it until I attended the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute this past summer. I look forward to sharing my story and passion about agriculture and learning more about the industry as well.
Hello advocates for agriculture! My name is Darby O’Connor from Paxton, Nebraska. I pride myself in the fact that I am a part of the agriculture industry. My part in agriculture is expressed through my hobby of showing livestock – I enjoy spending time in the barn preparing for shows. I am active in FFA where I serve as the Paxton FFA President, and continue to grow as an agriculturalist. I am proud to play a role in such an amazing industry and love sharing my passion for agriculture with both producers and consumers. I grew up on a ranch north of Paxton and love the experiences that came with growing up in an agricultural family. My mother is my inspiration when loving to show, my father who was a rancher is the reason I was blessed enough to grow up where I did, my brother Merritt continues to follow his passion of livestock while judging at SDSU and my other brother Rhett in McCook for rodeo. I love to share the greatness of agriculture and can’t wait for the journey that The Crew will send me on.
My name is Kelli Mashino and I live on a family farm near the small town of Spencer, NE. I’m a third generation agriculturalist with strong roots in faith, family, farming, and FFA. I’m a senior in high school and plan to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for Agricultural Communications next fall. I am very active in extracurriculars at my school. FFA, however, is my favorite. I have such a HUGE passion for agriculture. Growing up on the farm, I have learned the true value of hard work and dedication. My appreciation for agriculture has grown more and more the older I get and I have found that advocating for agriculture is one of my biggest passions! I love public speaking as well as writing. Writing and giving speeches have always been strengths of mine in high school. That is why I am so excited to be joining the CREW! I can’t wait to put my strengths to work and help spread the word of agriculture. Agricultural literacy is far more important than most people think. That’s why everyone who has a background in agriculture should take a stand and share their story. I can’t wait to go on this journey with you all! It’s going to be a great year of advocating for ag!
I am Maisie Kennicutt! I am 17 years old and a senior in high school from Wallace, Nebraska! For those of you who have never heard of such a place, it is a small town of maybe 300 people or less. It is located in the southwestern corner of the state. I live on a little farm about 18 miles southwest of town where I raise sheep, hogs and chickens. I have a brother, Aidan, and a sister, Emily, and we have been involved in sheep 4-H for 3 years now. We had never done any type for 4-H before but we decided to give it a try and we fell in love with it! Now we have a few ewes we saved back this year because we would like to start our own herd.
Other than working with our sheep, I spend most of my time at school activities. I enjoy going to the different sporting events at our school and cheering loud for all my friends. Most of the time I am in the ag room working on projects or getting study packets ready for competitions. I spend any time I possibly can outside. Whether I am doing animal chores or just working on little things around the farm. My goal for my future is to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and get my degree in agriculture education. With my degree, I want to return to a small Nebraska town to teach the generations after me about an industry that is so important in all of our lives.
I am an aspiring horticulturist, landscape designer, and drone flyer.
My name is Sam Steward. I am in my second year at Southeast Community College in Beatrice, Nebraska. My major is Agriculture Business and Management Technology. I have two focuses in Horticulture and Agribusiness. I will be receiving my Precision Agriculture Certificate in September. I am very involved at SCC. I am president of SCC Ag Club, Vice President of SCC Collegiate Farm Bureau, and I am currently in the process of getting Horticulture Club started back up on campus.
I am originally from Hickman, Nebraska, but I recently moved to Mead, Nebraska. I graduated from Norris High School where I was very involved in my FFA chapter. I was also a part of the Star City Llama and Alpaca 4-H club where I showed my llamas and alpacas at the Lancaster County Fair. I have been a member of the Alpaca and Llama Show Association for 15 years. I am also member of the Nebraska Arborist Association and the Nebraska Nursery and Landscape Association. I am also attending classes to become a certified Arborist for the state of Nebraska.
My name is Savannah Schafer and I am excited to be a CREW member! I am a sophomore majoring in Ag Education with a minor in Animal Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. My parents and I operate the Schafer Angus Farm near Nehawka, Nebraska. Our farm is small but mighty with a herd of registered Angus cows that provide high-quality replacement heifers, bulls, and market animals. We raise corn, soybeans, and alfalfa hay.
My passion for the agriculture industry has developed as I have grown. I was an active member in 4-H and am still an involved member in FFA. FFA provided me countless opportunities to become an advocate for agriculture by experiencing the world of agriculture up close and personal through contests, conventions, and classes. I am excited to receive my American Degree in October. My membership in the Nebraska Junior Angus Association opened numerous channels to the cattle industry and today’s issues. Through these programs, I have developed wonderful friendships with people who share my enthusiasm and concerns. I enjoy discussing today’s issues with other enthusiasts and hope to make a difference in closing the gap between farmer/rancher and the consumer. I am the fourth generation to help run the family farm and I hope to keep it running for future generations to come. My goal is help educate all ages as to the importance of agriculture, farmers, and ranchers. I am dedicated to talking about the issues with anyone and everyone!
Hello! I am Katie Nolles, a fifth generation Hereford breeder on both sides of my family, from Bassett, Nebraska. Growing up on my family’s ranch was the most influential part of my life, as it shaped my work ethic, developed my passion for agriculture, and instilled my values in me. For as long as I can remember, I have looked forward to working cattle, branding, checking calves, feeding hay, fixing fence, and making breeding decisions. Our operation is diverse; we raise registered Hereford cattle to sell bulls to cattlemen, have a custom embryo placement business, and a small herd of commercial cows to raise F1 calves. My parents met while showing cattle, so it is natural that I follow in their footsteps by showing my Herefords on a local, state, and national level. Maintaining partnerships and friendships with people across the country that span multiple generations is special to me.
Showing livestock led me to a few key youth leadership organizations. Joining 4-H as a five-year-old, I quickly took advantage of the many projects and learning experiences. FFA honed my public speaking skills, broadened my passion for agriculture, allowed me to travel the world, and opened my eyes to my future career in agricultural education. The Nebraska and National Junior Hereford Associations established my career in the beef industry. All of these organizations gave me leadership and career skills, along with lifelong friendships. As I transition out of these organizations, I look back with fond memories at serving as a FFA State Officer, National Hereford Queen, and National 4-H Congress Youth Leadership Team member.
Currently, I am a sophomore at UNL majoring in Agricultural Education. I’m passionate about learning as much as possible about agriculture. My experience and interests range from production to policy to education and outreach. I’m looking forward to connecting with you this year as a member of Nebraska Farm Bureau’s CREW!
There is just something about fall and harvest that I love experiencing every year. Things like the cool morning air as the sun rises over the horizon, the deep rumble of the diesel engines warming, and the rows of finished crops just crying out to be picked. And while our harvest at the nursery is a bit different from more traditional row crop farming we also look forward to our fall harvest. For the Nurseryman, when we see fall colors coming onto our trees and we can begin our harvest, our hearts beat a bit faster. To me, fall really hasn’t arrived until I see the combines in the fields harvesting and our equipment digging fresh trees from our fields.
Every year as harvest arrives, whether it is acres of crops, fields of trees, or our own home landscapes and vegetable gardens, I believe we all smile a bit larger as we enjoy the fruits of our labor and the return of the fall.
Our fall harvest while similar to other farmers is also slightly different. Just as crop farmers wait for the beans or corn to dry to harvest, we need our trees to show good fall color before we can safely harvest them from our fields. Once harvested our job is just beginning, as we will spend the short time before winter planting our harvest in the landscapes of our clients. This means there is still plenty of time to install a new tree, shrub or even perennial in your landscape. Generally we feel you can safely plant perennials until early November, shrubs and evergreens through November, and shade & flowering trees until the ground freezes solid. Of course some years Mother Nature is kinder and other years a bit meaner so that schedule can vary from year to year based on weather so check with your local nursery professional for specific recommendations about your fall planting.
Beyond the harvesting and planting activities don’t forget that fall is also a great time to prepare for next year in our landscapes and gardens. Fall landscape cleanups and fall turf care are some wonderful ways to prepare for next year.
As cool fall weather arrives and our plants go into their dormant winter sleep, proper fall cleaning and trim back of our landscapes prepares our plants to sleep through winter and come back ready to grow next spring. Removing dead annuals opens the beds for next year’s planting and trimming off browned up perennial tops cleans them up and prepares them to regrow next spring. Also when removing your annuals or vegetables consider preparing your beds for next spring’s plantings by adding and tilling in some compost or peat moss & manure to further enrich your beds.
On the turf side when the leaves begin to fall don’t forget to spend time on your lawn. September to early October is the normal time for application of the third step of the four step lawn programs and November is perfect for the fourth step usually known as the Winter Turf Fertilization. Proper fertilization of your lawn this fall will give your turf what it will need next spring for a healthier lawn. Fall is also the time to aerate your turf to reduce compaction, encourage a vigorous root system and to increase water / air movement into the soil. And while you may need to mow a few more times, make an effort to rake up fallen leaves every week to ten days. Frequent rakings will reduce the possibility the leaves will get left in place caught under the snow. Short-term, leaves aren’t really a problem but if they are left to sit under the snow all winter they can mat down the grass and leave areas that could need to be reseeded or resodded next spring.
Finally, if Mother Nature doesn’t give us plenty of moisture this fall even as the weather gets cooler make sure to water your turf and plants to keep them hydrated as they head into their winter dormancy. By properly hydrating your plants, especially your evergreens, you ensure they are prepared for their winter sleep and your plants will be better prepared to begin growing again next spring. Just remember to detach your hoses between waterings to eliminate the potential of frozen or cracked pipes in your home.
When I think about it I really don’t know what it is about fall that I enjoy so much. Choices abound from the beauty of the fall foliage, the moderating weather, Husker football, the harvest, or any of the many other events that fall brings. What I do know though is that the events of fall, including the harvest, are such major parts of our lives here in Nebraska. So, as I will, make the most of a glorious fall this year and celebrate it before that evil beast winter shows up again.
Andy Campbell is manager of Campbell’s Nurseries Landscape Department. A Lancaster County Farm Bureau Member, Campbell’s, a family owned Nebraska business since 1912, offers assistance for all your landscaping and gardening needs at either of their two Lincoln garden centers or through their landscape design office. www.campbellsnursery.com.
Chipotle’s newest marketing campaign, “The Scarecrow,” has gotten quite the buzz over the past few weeks. Growing up on a family farm, I was quickly offended when I saw the video, as I know that the practices used on my families’ farm look nothing like what is portrayed in the scarecrow video.
However, due to a stint working at an advertising agency, I was also quick to remember “The Scarecrow” is just a marketing campaign.
Whatever you want to call it, it was developed to promote sales at their restaurants. The portion I struggle with is that, while the commenters and reviewers seem more than happy to spend their hard earned money at a corporate restaurant chain, farmers and ranchers become the bad guys for providing for their family using technology and modern practices.
Personally, I believe that people should have the right to choose what they purchase for their family to eat, and farmers and ranchers have always met consumer demand whether it be by the practice used to raise the food, by price or by quality.
We are in a world where the average person is three generations removed from the farm, and in the words of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.”
It’s not a bad thing to not know, but when opinions fuel emotions and emotions become published facts via social media – that’s scary.
A few articles I’d recommend –
More on perspectives, CAFO: “The Auschwitz of Livestock?”
For more on what the labels on your food actually mean, read Combating Label Confusion.
Learn more about different sizes of farms in A Tale of Two Farmers.
– Kassi Williams is a proud farmer’s daughter raised up on a cow/calf and grain farm.
This story begins with two machine shed lights. When Del Ficke was growing up on a farm outside Pleasant Dale and Kerry Hoffschneider on a farm by York, they had something in common.
“When Del and I met, we discovered we had similar fathers,” Hoffschneider said. “And, we both found out we would each wait from our bedroom windows on the farm for our fathers, the late Kenneth Ficke and my dad, Dean Heine, to come inside at night. Yes, those machine shed lights symbolized a lot for us on the farm – hard work, dedication and a commitment to family.”
It’s fitting, years later, that the Ficke Cattle Company machine shed, glowing with light under a cool, starry night in Nebraska, was the setting for a very special celebration recently. On Sept. 13, 10 students and nine teachers from the Omaha Bryan High School Urban Ag Academy traveled west of Omaha to meet some of their neighbors who care deeply about them and feeding the world.
“We just decided to make a big deal out of their visit,” Hoffschneider said. “Because these urban students are a big deal. We have to start thinking differently about the future of agriculture and feeding the world. We can’t be status quo and we must work together with our neighbors everywhere. Sometimes, we in agriculture, are our own worst enemy, and we’ve got to stop that or we’re not going to be in business anymore, at least not the way that’s beneficial to building rural communities.”
The day began at DuPont Pioneer, where Darin Doerr – production location manager for their York seed facility – led the tour and exposed students to the diverse careers that exist in the seed business.
“We are producing seed here that is being planted across the globe. We need young people who have a passion for science and agriculture to come back to places like York County and use their knowledge and education at home,” Doerr said.
Triple S Farms was the next stop where students were given a peek into the pork industry.
Stuart Spader told the attentive group, “Life doesn’t stop west of Omaha. You are the future. You are so smart and have access to so many educational resources. Nebraska is a great place to live, a wonderful place, and we want you back here.”
“We need to remember livestock is a rural development opportunity,” Ficke said. “There are many ways to build community around the livestock sector if we can be open-minded. We need everyone, the best and brightest breeders in the industry, crop production in a variety of forms, the arts and information technology. If we aren’t diverse in the rural mindset and landscape, we’ll miss a very creative, healthy future that could be designed out here.”
Students were also able to hear from Ryan Hoffschneider, a partner in Orville Hoffschneider and Sons outside of Waco. Ryan told the group about white corn production and touched on the cattle feeding business. Mostly, the former FFA member himself said, “Don’t give up and don’t be afraid to call us up again or come visit. We’d really like to have you back out to the farm.”
The day concluded with the glow of the machine shed light at Del and Brenda Ficke’s place where 130 Nebraska neighbors came together to hear the Urban Ag Academy’s story and also some inspiration from another young rural professional named Garry Clark, who is now serving as director of the Cuming County Development Corporation. Clark, like the students who visited, didn’t grow up on a farm, but grew to have a passion for agriculture and rural development.
“For a portion of my childhood I was homeless. I grew up in Washington, D.C., in public housing. There were many times that school lunch was the only meal I had that day. Those school meals were the saving grace for us,” Clark said. “I cannot compare myself exactly with people in other countries who are starving to death. But, I do know how it feels to be hungry. I am so thankful to have moved to a place where I have learned the importance of agriculture and its part in the circle of all of our lives.”
“My passion is so big now,” said academy student Austin Martinez, “I now know there is so much more I could do, more than I had dreamed of before.”
“I want to be a chemist,” said Bryan FFA president Reyna Quintana, “Ever since I read in a science magazine they could potentially make a square tomato one day, I’ve wanted to help make that happen. I want to help people have more nutritious food in the future.”The ag academy and FFA have given us a community, a family in our school that has changed our school experience for the better,” said academy student Megan Shaw who dreams of a future that would include ranching and animal agriculture.
“Every time we got back on the bus the students said, ‘This is just so cool.’ They are so excited to go and tell their classmates about this experience,” said Channing Reha the new academy ag instructor who took the reins after Ashton Meints set the stage for the program.
“Your career choice is often your lifestyle choice,” said school counselor Randy Schultz, “If you cannot actually see and touch the opportunities out there, you won’t know if you want to pursue them.”
“One of our primary goals in the Urban Agriculture Academy is to expose students to a variety of careers. This event gave us a great opportunity to show our students future career opportunities,” said Rick Painter who serves as a school guidance counselor and coordinator of the academy program.
“When I look back to my own childhood growing up in a farming community in New Mexico, these experiences shape lives,” said Robert Aranda, Bryan High School principal. “These experiences must have true meaning for our students and teachers. This really had meaning for all of us.”
“There is no way in one day we could show these students all of agriculture, but it’s a start,” said Ficke. “We each have a ‘machine shed light’ story that has inspired us along the way. All we’re encouraging our neighbors to do is share what really matters to them with the next generation.”
The Bryan High School Urban Ag Academy is based on national standards from the National Career Academy Coalition.
At Bryan, they believe an academy is a group of students who are cohorted into their classes with the curriculum for the Career and Technology Education courses integrated into each class. The Urban Agriculture and Natural Resources Career Academy (UANRCA) is designed for youth in their sophomore year.
Students are interviewed their freshman year and those who are accepted take Introduction to Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, Agriculture English, Agriculture Geography and Agriculture Economics.
Also, in order for all students to participate in the UANRCA they have included a Special Education teacher who co-teaches courses.
Each year they will add 60 students into the program starting their sophomore year, recruiting students during their freshman year to see about their interest into the program. By the school year 2014-2015, there will be approximately 180 students in the academy.
Recruitment begins during freshman classes targeting a reflection of the school demographics and also those students who are not engaged or connected with other school programming.
The Bryan High School Urban Agriculture and Natural Resources Academy would like to build a greenhouse to teach students the growing process. Their goal for the greenhouse is to grow produce to give back to the families of Bryan High School, use in our culinary classes and donate to the food bank for the back pack program. Bryan High School has about 1,680 students with 13 portables. The facility was built for 1,200 students.
Additional classroom space would allow students to take part in a variety of hands-on activities to bring learning to life. Currently the agriculture teacher shares a classroom with other science teachers.
This school year, the agriculture teacher has four different classrooms to teach in. This makes it virtually impossible to set up and complete experiments in class. This past year, students had to conduct some of the experiments in the teachers plan area due to lack of classroom space.
For more information contact:
Cell Phone: 402-212-9863
Address & School Phone:
Bryan High School
4700 Giles Road
Omaha, NE 68157