Members of the House Committee on Agriculture recently heard from nearly 100 Californians on a variety of topics including the need to invest in agricultural education. The committee held a listening session at the Modesto Junior College Ag Pavilion on August 5, as part of a series of sessions titled, “The Next Farm Bill, Conversations in the Field”.
State president of the California FFA Association, Luke O’Leary, was one of the participants of the session and he offered a reminder of the relationship between the agriculture industry and agricultural education. “As you consider the farm bill and consider the future of our industry, we must constantly consider those students who are beginning to join college and careers in the agricultural industry,” O’Leary stated.
AgNet West spoke to O’Leary after his statement to the committee, where he highlighted some of the benefits of agricultural education. “While an ag based education is completely vital to those roles, it’s also these soft skills and leadership development that the students are experiencing that is really going to take them far,” said O’Leary.
In California alone, the association has grown by nearly 4,000 students over the past year, to a total of 87,000 members. O’Leary noted that the organization reaches 650,000 students on a national level, signifying the impact that agricultural curriculum has on young people. As the average age of California farmers continues to climb, investing in the youth is critical for the future of agriculture. Young agriculturalists can provide a unique perspective as they are, “thinking of new, creative ways to pursue more effective and efficient production, and that’s going to come from our students where they’re gaining those skills in the classroom,” O’Leary commented.
While agriculture is typically associated with farmers on their tractors working their land, the effects of agricultural education have a much broader impact. “There’s plenty of other parts, from vertical farming in urban areas and rooftop gardens, as well as the more communications side or the policy side of those in the offices working to support the farmers out in the field,” stated O’Leary.
Listen to O’Leary’s full interview
Luke O’Leary Interview