Karen Blatter with 1st Farm Credit Services in Normal speaks to 8th grade students at Parkside Junior High School about careers in agriculture. (Photo by Carrie Muehling/WJBC)
By Carrie Muehling
NORMAL - Eighth graders at Parkside Junior High School learned more about career opportunities in agriculture from industry professionals Thursday.
The students rotated through several presentations on opportunities in communications, ag lending, vet tech and other agriculture-related careers. Many of the students have no idea how broad the agriculture industry is and what possibilities exist.
“This age is very fun. We toss around a globe and we talk about how this planet is a very hungry planet, and it will be continue to be so if we don’t step up and take that lead in the ag industry. It will be our job to feed this planet. It is now and it will continue to be so. The challenge in the future will be less land resources and more people,” said Mindy Bunselmeyer, program advisor with Facilitating Coordination in Agriculture Education (FCAE).
Bunselmeyer works with high school and college-level agriculture programs and county ag literacy coordinators to provide professional development, curriculum resources and materials. She also works to bring agriculture programming to schools where it doesn’t already exist through classes and teacher workshops.
“Actually, these kids are almost too old to plant the seed about considering a career in agriculture,” said Bill Johnson, with Joliet Junior College. “Probably fourth or fifth grade is a better time, but since virtually none of the students here have a farm background, it’s a great opportunity to give that little spark that might make some of them really consider where their food comes from and even wanting to get involved in producing it in the future.”
Johnson has found that typically students who choose agriculture had some kind of a connection to the farm with a grandparent or other family member. But involvement in high school agriculture classes and FFA is another good way to reach students who might find a career in agriculture.
“It just kind of gives you an idea of something you can do in high school that maybe will help you with skills for a career,” said Kati Kallevig, senior at Normal Community West High School (NCWHS). “And whether you want to do agriculture or not, FFA gives you the skills for pretty much any career you can think of.”
And while most of the students at Parkside do not have an agriculture background, a program like this one can be important even for those who do.
“I came to this and I was like, wow, there’s actually a lot more to ag than I really thought. Even coming from a farmer’s daughter, I really didn’t realize there was that much out there,” said Lindsey Keiser, sophomore at NCWHS.
Kallevig and Keiser were among Normal FFA members who helped to facilitate Thursday’s program. Normal FFA advisor and Unit 5 agriculture teacher Kevin Enderlin coordinates the program at district junior high schools each year. In addition to the program at Parkside, the group also visited Chiddix Junior High School and set up displays at Kingsley and Evans Junior High Schools, reaching about 1,200 Unit 5 students total.
Carrie Muehling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.