By SLO County Superintendent James Brescia
I recently overheard a local Agricultural Education teacher describe her service as a Future Farmers of America (FFA) Advisor. I was surprised at how many people indicated they had not heard of FFA or Career and Technical Education (CTE). Agricultural Education is far more important than just an elective class.
Our daily needs such as food, clothing, medicine, and even the paper this article was printed on require agriculture. The National FFA is one of the largest youth-led organizations in the United States. In 1988 “National” was added to the name of the association to represent the large number of participants that have swelled the ranks off FFA members to 653,359 representing 8,568 local chapters throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Growing up in the Santa Clara Valley in the 1960s was very reminiscent of living and raising our family in Paso Robles for the past 30 years. Agriculture is a significant portion of the county’s total direct economic output.
This year’s Mid-State Fair 4-H and FFA sales topped $2.2 million. Even during the height of the drought county agriculture produced nearly $1 billion dollars in product. According to the County Agricultural Report, indirect business tax payments related to agriculture have totaled more than $45.9 million. Our schools have embraced the agricultural history of our county and developed high- quality, cutting-edge programs preparing our youth for not only advances in agriculture but new technology and beyond. Several of our recent valedictorians have been actively involved in agriculture, FFA, and CTE.
North County schools have consistently embraced, advocated for, and led highly successful agricultural education programs. At a time in our history when the majority of our U.S. population is far removed from the land, schools on the Central Coast are continuing to promote interest, awareness, and involvement in agriculture. It is essential that we educate about where our food comes from beyond the local market shelf. A Shandon rancher, I spoke with last month said: “If you like to eat, then you should like agriculture.” It is the responsibility of educators, farmers, ranchers, and all directly involved with land to tell the story of our family farms, ranches, and the people who care for this valuable commodity right here on the Central Coast.
By embracing programs such as FFA, agriculture education, and CTE, today’s educators create socially interactive environments that maintain discipline, create learning “fun,” and teach the positive use of new technologies that benefit our daily lives.
As we move forward into a new school year, I thank you for your continued support of education, our community, and our democracy. It is an honor to serve as your San Luis Obispo County Superintendent of Schools.