Tennessee beefs up school FFA programs

Published 5:33 pm Wednesday, November 9, 2022

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Tennessee is implementing a new model for agricultural education that will advance opportunities for students and enhance support for teachers.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture and the Tennessee Department of Education are partnering with a Memorandum of Understanding to boost Tennessee’s agricultural education programs through the FFA student organization. Tennessee’s FFA enrollment has more than doubled since 2020, making it one of the largest FFA organizations in the nation.

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Changes set forth in the MOU include creating six new staff positions at TDA that are focused on FFA members and their learning activities outside of the classroom, including the Supervised Agricultural Experience programs and FFA competitions and events. The model creates an FFA State Director position under the purview of TDA. TDOE will continue to focus on in-classroom curriculum development and teacher support, and a new FFA Deputy State Director will be added to their staff.

“Agriculture is the top industry in the state, and developing future leaders in agriculture, food, fiber, and natural resource systems is essential to our economic outlook,” Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M. said. “TDA is pleased to be a part of this new structure of collaboration with educators to better prepare the next generation of agricultural and forestry professionals. Anytime we can enhance learning experiences for students, we are all in.”

Experience beyond the classroom will be extended into communities to help students develop competencies in ag careers. TDA will design and facilitate immersive SAE projects that align with principles of agricultural education standards designed by TDOE.

“Tennessee understands the importance of agricultural education, and thanks to our state partners at TDA, Tennessee can provide even more supports and growth opportunities for students across the state,” Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn, Ph.D. said. “The department will continue supporting teachers and ensure that this instruction is aligned with core FFA skills—science, math, communications, leadership, management, and technology—to support the postsecondary success of our students.”

TDOE will design and implement K-12 agricultural education course standards and resources for classroom and laboratory instruction with the application of skills demonstrated in SAE projects and programs.

“Tennessee FFA is growing faster than ever and the need for aspiring leaders and workers is strong,” State FFA President Taylor Cantrell said. “This new partnership between the Departments of Agriculture and Education will help students ultimately meet the needs of industry and of our communities. FFA members now and in the future will benefit from this positive change.”

The Tennessee General Assembly and Governor Bill Lee established an Agricultural Education and Youth Participation Task Force in 2019 to address the national decline in the number of young adults entering the agriculture workforce. A five-member, volunteer Agricultural Education Council will be established to serve as the primary advisory group for the agricultural education program model in Tennessee.