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‘Agri-education for the next generation’

Four area high schools to hold collaborative discussion to engage local agriculture community on the future of agri-education

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November 17, 2022

LUXEMBURG – It likely comes as no surprise that nearly 30% of jobs in the State of Wisconsin are agricultural-related.
With a dairy farm or corn field in nearly every community, it’s hard not to make the assumption.

However, Luxemburg-Casco School District Superintendent Jo Ellen Fairbanks said agriculture-related jobs in the Badger State, as well as nationwide, extend far beyond the barn or field.

“When people think about agriculture, they think about driving a tractor or maybe working as a herdsman with cattle or cows,” she said. “They don’t realize agriculture is a billion-dollar industry. You’re going to need people who work in agri-business.”

Fairbanks said that includes positions like accountants, mechanics, engineers, geneticists and veterinarians. 

“It goes way beyond what you see when people are working in the field,” she said.

In an effort to shine a brighter light on the multitude of agricultural career opportunities available and how they fit into the needs of the industry locally, four high schools – Luxemburg-Casco, Algoma, Kewaunee and Denmark – are hosting a collaborative discussion on the future of agri-education.

“This is a way to connect with the (local) ag community, those that know where the industry is going to be in 10 years – and gain that information so we can make sure kids are prepared for that wide variety of agriculture jobs,” Fairbanks said.

Scott Fritz, superintendent of the Kewaunee School District?, said having a discussion with local agricultural businesses and community members can help districts make the best decisions in regard to programming for agriscience and create the best opportunities for students in their post-secondary pursuits.

“As we have talked with local agricultural businesses, they want our students to know there are a wide variety of opportunities in agricultural fields that include science, maintenance, technology and business-related careers,” he said.

The partnership
Fairbanks said the collaboration partially stemmed from Luxemburg-Casco reflecting on how to best use its new agriscience facilities.

“We have a greenhouse, we have room for animals and a classroom area for instruction – and we were thinking about how to make the best use out of this facility so we can prepare kids for a future in agriculture,” she said.

Fairbanks said come to find out, Algoma, Kewaunee and Denmark were having similar discussions in regard to agri-education.
“We’re all kind of facing that same issue about where we should be looking forward as far as agri-education,” she said.

Fairbanks said the school districts know education, but the agri-business community knows agriculture.

“So, we know it makes sense we invite the community and have them tell us where the future of agriculture is going to be?” she said.

Fritz said the superintendents meet regularly and want to find ways to collaborate that benefits their respective students and community.

“As superintendents, we feel like we each have resources we can offer in a collaborative manner that can give our students more choices and more exposure to opportunities in careers in our communities,” he said.

Jesse Brinkmann, superintendent of the Algoma School District said the hope is to have school districts across the area collaborate so that students can be afforded specialized instruction in certain areas of agriculture.

Agreeing, Fairbanks said, “together we can do a whole lot more than we can do individually.”

“(There would potentially be) a little bit of shared services between the four partner school districts, that’s why we’re working together,” she said. “Right now, Luxemburg-Casco might have five kids interested in dairy science and then Kewaunee might have seven, Algoma might have three and Denmark might have two. Individually, it’s hard to run a class and a program with that small number of kids. However, if we can combine together and let’s say we’re going to hold dairy science at Kewaunee School District, then kids can go there, and they can work on the dairy side.”

// Jo Ellen Fairbanks said the high school’s agriscience facilities allow students to learn skills needed to prepare them for a wide variety of agriculture jobs. Submitted Photo

Brinkmann said he believes it is critical to have agriculture courses in area high schools because it will offer students a variety of opportunities.

“Whether a student graduates high school and goes on to college, a technical school or into the workforce, they will have the skills and experiences they can carry with them into the field of agriculture,” he said. “Our hope is to grow the industry of agriculture by offering courses suited to meet the needs of local farmers, business owners and food production companies.”
The event
Set for 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dec. 3, in the Heritage/Multipurpose Room at Luxemburg-Casco High School, 512 Center Drive in Luxemburg, Fairbanks said the event – “Agri-Education for the Next Generation” – is intended to bring together agricultural business owners, agri-education teachers and school leaders, FFA and school alumni, community members, current students and parents.

Fairbanks said the day-long event will help guide coursework and career-based learning that meet current and future industry, as well as create a collaborative vision and partnership between the four high schools and the agriculture community.

“At the event, we will be encouraging participants to look at global and local changes that have impacted agriculture in the area, to identify what agriculture education looks like today and to project a vision of agriculture education for the future,” she said.

Fairbanks said by including the local agriculture community in the conversation helps highlight the viability of a life and career in Northeast Wisconsin.

“In all of our communities, we want to provide opportunities so kids can have careers and lives within the community without having to leave,” she said. “We want people to stay in the community, and having a career in agriculture helps that goal as well.”

More information on the event and a link to RSVP can be found on the Luxemburg-Casco School District website.

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