Ag in the Classroom brings its story to show

Oregon Ag in the Classroom makes agriculture come alive through activities, special lessons and visits from volunteers who talk about farming and ranching.

At the 2019 Northwest Ag Show, Oregon Ag in the Classroom is launching a push into high schools with its first ever Agricultural Career Expo. The expo will include workshops where presenters will speak to an estimated 500 high school students on career opportunities in agriculture.

“The general idea is to help students become more aware of agricultural careers,” said Jessica Jansen, executive director of the organization.

The expo is one of three parts of a Specialty Crop Research Initiative grant awarded Oregon Ag in the Classroom by the Oregon Department of Agriculture in October of 2017. Other parts of the Careers in Agriculture grant include the production of a video and a pamphlet highlighting career opportunities in agriculture.

The video and pamphlet, both of which include interviews with people working in agriculture, are available to organizations that wish to educate high school students about agricultural career opportunities, Jansen said.

The Agricultural Career Expo is part of a larger shift within the national Ag in the Classroom program toward familiarizing high school students with agriculture, Jansen said. Long focused on elementary schools, Jansen said the organization decided to add a high-school element after recognizing that in many high schools, particularly urban schools that don’t have FFA or 4-H, agriculture was not represented.

“So many of our high schools in Oregon don’t have ag education,” Jansen said. “In Multnomah and Washington counties, there are very few FFA programs, and we only have one in the Salem-Keizer School District.

“It would be wonderful if we had ag science classes in every high school, but that is just not where we are at in our high schools,” Jansen said. “Our focus is helping the high school teachers see ag as a teaching topic that they can integrate into their curriculum.”

Most of the materials offered by the state program to Oregon high schools has been produced by the national Ag in the Classroom program, Jansen said. Also, Oregon Ag in the Classroom has begun working more with high school teachers in workshop settings, Jansen said.

“We are just kind of expanding what we’ve been doing in the elementary schools for many years,” she said. “It is the same philosophy, same approach: We now just have more curriculum available for middle school and high school teachers.”

Part of the incentive behind the Agricultural Career Expo is to help agricultural companies meet employment needs, Jansen said.

“There is a huge need for more people in agriculture, so we saw this as an area that nobody else was doing work around, helping students become familiar with ag careers,” she said.

The Agricultural Career Expo, scheduled Jan. 18, will include workshops with presenters in Cascade Hall, as well as activities in the Northwest Ag Show’s main exhibition halls, the Jackman-Long Building and Columbia Hall.

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