The Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council recently released its 2025 Agriculture, Food and Natural Resource Education Blueprint.
The blueprint provides key goals and strategies to enhance AFNR education at multiple levels, including agricultural literacy, school-based AFNR education, postsecondary AFNR education, teacher preparation in agricultural education, and farm business management.
“The blueprint highlights the importance of providing access to quality AFNR education programs for all Minnesotans, and communicating the career opportunities available within the agriculture industry,” says Sarah Dornink, MAELC executive director. “We need to continue to invest in these programs both locally and statewide.”
Dornink says Minnesota continues to have a shortage of agriculture teachers, even though two programs that license agriculture teachers have been added in recent years.
“The increase in demand for agriculture, food and natural resource programs has magnified the shortage,” she says. “More agriculture teachers are needed as schools add classes and expand from single-teacher to multiple-teachers’ programs.”
As fewer Minnesotans come from farming backgrounds and baby boomers start to retire, Dornink says the state is seeing the demand for employees in the AFNR sectors increase.
“In 2016, there were over 67,000 AFNR jobs posted online in Minnesota but only 984 AFNR certificates, diplomas or degrees were awarded between the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities and Crookston,” she adds.
More than 200 agricultural education stakeholder and industry professionals offered input in the document. In October 2017, six listening sessions were held around the state to hear the ideas and perspectives about what Minnesota AFNR education should accomplish by 2025. Goals and strategies were categorized into four broad themes: quality of instruction, increasing the numbers and types of those involved in AFNR education, improving the understanding of AFNR systems, and supporting AFNR programs locally and statewide.
Dornink says the 2025 blueprint builds on its 2012-17 blueprint and will be used by MAELC and its board of directors to guide direction over the next seven years.
The blueprint provided the following background information on the current state of ag, food and natural resource programs in Minnesota:
• There are currently 194 AFNR education programs in the state, which include 25 programs in the seven-county metro area. Programs are taught by 253 agriculture teachers, with 50 of these programs staffed by two or more teachers. In 2017-18, there were 21,833 students enrolled in programs organized around the agricultural career pathways of food production and processing; plant systems; animal systems; agribusiness; natural resource systems; power, structural and technical systems; biotechnology; and environmental sciences. Of these students, 10,400 have chosen to participate in Minnesota FFA, a career and technical education student organization.
• Fourteen institutions in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system offered AFNR programs that served 748 students during the 2017 fall semester. AFNR programs at the University of Minnesota-Crookston and the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities served another 382 and 2,057 students, respectively. The top three Minnesota State System programs in 2017 were agribusiness/agribusiness production, landscaping and groundskeeping, and crop science. The top three programs at the University of Minnesota were animal science, environmental sciences policy and management, and food science. In 2016, there were 984 AFNR certificates, diplomas, or degrees awarded from all programs.
• College students are prepared for licensure to teach agricultural education at Southwest Minnesota State University-Marshall, the University of Minnesota-Crookston, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and Minnesota State 2+2 programs. There are approximately 54 undergraduate students enrolled in teacher preparation programs at the three universities. The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities also prepares students to become agriculture teachers through its graduate program. Agricultural education also offers professional development and continuing education programs for beginning and established teachers.
• Farm business management instruction is concerned with developing a farmer’s knowledge of economic principles and decision-making processes. The object of the instruction is to help farmers apply these approaches or sets of principles to their businesses to meet their goals. FBM is offered online and at eight college campuses: Alexandria Technical and Community College, Central Lakes College, Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Northland Community and Technical College, Ridgewater College, Riverland Community College, South Central College and St. Cloud Technical and Community College. A total of 66 instructors serve 2,602 students.
To learn more about the 2025 AFNR Blueprint or access an electronic version, visit the MAELC website at mn.gov/maelc/initiatives.html.