The Current State of Agricultural Education
Chandler Taylor-Henry, sophomore at Paul Quinn College in Dallas, says the farm is what drew him to Paul Quinn. The African American liberal arts college was founded in 1872. Previously the college did not have any strong focus on agriculture. However, in 2010, due to financial pressures, the gridiron turf was tuned into land for cultivation of organic products.
The “We Over Me Farm” occupies four campus acres and generates $40,000 in annual gross revenue. Almost a quarter of the class of 2017 graduated and applications rose up by 262%.
Taylors-Henry’s goal, “is to work at the USDA and help the country get away from unhealthy foods.” There are many others that share his goal. The overall enrollment in agriculture courses have remained flat from 2004-2015. Though, the programs devoted to sustainable farming practices have increased since the USDA started keeping track of them.
Currently there are 256 ‘agroecology’ programs being offered at the University of Maine. Of these, 97 lead to a bachelor’s, masters and doctoral degree. In 2006, Damian Parr co-founded a professional organization, the Sustainable Agriculture Education Association. Par concluded that the interest of the students was the driving force that led to the change.
Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution was that came up with the synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in the mid-20th century. Borlaug passed away in 2009. In the same year, some young Aggies established the organic Howdy Farm on campus of the Texas A&M University.
In the 1980’s, thousands of families that owned independent farms were shut down due to collapsing commodity-crop prices, record debt and rising interest rates. The scenario created a climate that welcomed industry-wide consolidation. By the end of the decade, enrollment in agricultural programs increased by 30%. Due to this a stigma was attached to those employed in agriculture.
An agroecology professor at North Carolina State University (NCSU), Michelle Schroeder-Moreno had to face resistance when she tried to introduce a stand-alone major in sustainable agriculture. By 2015, she was finally given a chance to proceed when introduced an undergraduate major in agroecology and sustainable food system.
Mark Rasmussen, tenured professor at the animal science department established the Iowa Groundwater Protection Act in 1987. The act was established to generate funds for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. However, in President Trump’s regime, the funds were reallocated to another department.
Other few American universities, such as the University of California has a 30 acre organic farm. It was established by the legendary Horticulture Alan Chadwick. Damian Parr makes use of the farm by teaching undergrads more than ordinary vocational practices and giving them hands-on-training.