As a student, I was interested to see where Michigan Farm Bureau’s (MFB) policy stands on education issues. There’s a wide variety of education topics in MFB’s policy book, from Agriscience, Food and Natural Resources Education and the support of FFA to MFB’s close partnership with Michigan State University.
Let’s dive first into Educational Reforms, which piqued my curiosity about its history and why Farm Bureau members support its directives.
Educational Reforms is one of MFB’s lengthier policies, for good reason: Education is vital to all. The opening statement reads, “We believe all Michigan children should have an equal opportunity for quality education,” showing just how important education is to MFB members.
This line immediately caught my eye: “[We support] Michigan Farm Bureau exploring the development of a Michigan Agricultural unit that teaches students where their food comes from.”
I remember my younger sister’s excitement when her classroom got a visit from one of the two Food, Agriculture & Resources in Motion (FARM) Science Labs, the 40-foot mobile classroom filled with teaching technology and STEM-based lessons. Schools can have the FARM Science Lab come to them and enjoy a fieldtrip, without the hassle of permission slips! Ensuring that every student gets an opportunity to experience agriscience — even in urban areas without 4-H or FFA — is an amazing leap forward in agricultural education.
I spoke with Rebecca Park, the legislative counsel who is MFB’s lead staffer on education policy. We discussed members’ passion for career and technical education programs and flexibility to pursue vocational training, reflected in these statements:
“CTE helps teach students valuable hands-on learning and intangible skills such as thinking on your feet and being able to react to real life situations,” Park explained. “As such, in 2006 Michigan set a regimented schedule of courses for high school students to complete to obtain a high school diploma.
“Farm Bureau members believe in rigorous education but believe rigor can be taught through hands-on learning such as CTE programs and therefore support flexibility within the Michigan Merit Curriculum.”
With fewer people involved in agriculture, it is important to have educational programs that help all students learn about agriculture, regardless of their involvement in farming.
From teaching the importance of responsibility and respect for livestock through organizations like 4-H, to providing students with the skills of public speaking and encouraging a passion for agriculture through the FFA, ag education has deep roots.
Led by your policy, MFB is taking steps to deepen and strengthen these roots, and ultimately reach more students. FARM Science Labs, firm support of ag education programs, and supporting the next generation of agricultural students and teachers through legislation — they’re all important to help ensure the long-term viability of agricultural education.
To learn more about issues policy development committees are discussing, check out the Michigan Farm Bureau probable issues web page.
Monroe County native Colten Aikens is studying agribusiness management & crop and soil sciences at Michigan State University. This summer he is interning with MFB’s Public Policy and Commodity Division.