FFA and Ag Education in general has been growing quickly across the state in recent years. In this new school year alone there are new programs in Hot Springs, Broadview and Dawson County High School. This year 100% of the Agricultural Education graduates from Montana State University were able to find jobs teaching. In fact there has been so much growth with new and renewing programs that teachers had to recruited from out of state to fill the positions.
Currently there are 96 agricultural education programs across Montana being taught by 103 teachers. Total FFA membership for the 2017-18 school numbered 5,225 students.
That growth in ag education is now continuing in the state’s largest school district in Billings, thanks to a new agriculture curriculum. 10 percent of all of Montana’s students attend a school in Billings, so not having a strong ag program is not an option. The new program has been able to hit the ground running thanks to the support of several different local and statewide businesses. Organizations like Northwest Farm Credit Services, Stockman Bank, CHS and many others have generously donated to the program to assist the agricultural leaders and workforce of tomorrow.
This week Northwest Farm Credit Services delivered a check for $10,000 to assist the new program for the Billings Public Schools at the Billings Career Center. NWFCS Billings Branch Manager Jessica Duray brought the opportunity to the attention of her company, which saw the value in the venture. “Agriculture is the number-one industry in Montana, and it makes sense that Northwest FCS would help expand the ag-related curriculum,” she said.
The Agriculture Education program is a three-year series of courses that follows the CASE (Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education) program; the introductory course began this fall with 44 students enrolled. Funds raised supported teacher training, books, lab equipment and technology. Billings Career Center Principal Scott Anderson said initially they weren’t expecting that many students to sign up. But so many students were interested in the program that they had to offer two separate classes.
Anderson said this new curriculum will be more engaging to the students and open their eyes to career possibilities in the agricultural industry. “Ag science is changing,” he says. “And so what we have to do is give our kids an opportunity to open their mind and say if you want to be a part of agriculture, you can be a part of it in so many different pathways. We would be doing our kids a disservice to not give them exposure to the types of occupations that agriculture presents in our community and in our region.”
The growth certainly seems poised to continue across the state as there are three open positions for ag teachers in Heart Butte, Harlem and St. Regis. Certainly an exciting time for Ag Education, FFA and the agricultural industry as a whole.