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Missouri DESE announces strategic plan for agricultural education

 Sun shines over a crop field.
The agricultural workforce is aging with the average age of hired farm laborers increasing by 8%, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

There might be more dirt in Missouri schools’ curriculums starting in 2024, all in an effort to increase agricultural education in the state.

The state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Agricultural Education section announced a five year plan on Wednesday. The last plan was made more than 20 years ago, and the goal with the new plan is to account for changes in technology, agriculture and education, including the recent agriculture teacher shortage and the decline of small farms.

Nevertheless, agriculture is the number one industry in Missouri, with 66% of total land use being dedicated to farmland, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Keith Dietzschold is the DESE’s director of agricultural education. The DESE website says agricultural education doesn’t just prepare students for careers in the field – it also helps people make informed choices in their daily lives.

Dietzschold said everyone is connected to agriculture.

“Every day, everybody’s going to eat,” Dietzschold said. “Everybody needs clothing, and everybody needs shelter. And all of those things have a basis and a basic foundation in agriculture. And so, how can we help that?”

First on the list of priorities is making sure people have access to agricultural education. The plan suggests an “equitable emphasis” on all three parts of the school-based program, which includes classroom experience, Future Farmers of America and Supervised Agricultural Experience.

“Our goal with these priorities and themes is to try to develop a workforce that meets the needs of agriculture in the state of Missouri,” Dietzschold said. “Career education, that’s our goal, is to have the students be successful in the career pathway that they’ve chosen.”

While the plan sets up goals for the next five years, the ways it will affect classrooms are still up for debate. Dietzschold said he and other coworkers will meet this fall to discuss implementation.

Abby Lee is a student at the University of Missouri studying journalism and women’s and gender studies. She has interned with mxdwn Music and The Missouri Review.
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