Monday, March 15, 2021

Inspiring ag teachers and future leaders

By David Kayser, chair of the Board of Trustees of the CHS Foundation and a member of the CHS Board of Directors

Today's ag teachers are inspiring tomorrow's rural leaders. 
At Minnesota's Detroit Lakes High School, student (left)
Jenna Tollefson and ag teacher Janelle Hueners catch
up between classes.

One of my sons studied at Mitchell Technical College and brought ideas back to our farm that changed and improved how we manage our operation immensely. That’s the power of agricultural education.

Ag education has always been important for kids with a love of farming, like my sons, but today there aren’t enough farm kids to meet the demands of our industry. We need to pique more students’ interest in ag careers and encourage them to pursue training.

It’s exciting to think about the types of people who will work side by side with my sons on their operation in the future. When you think about how the next generations might not even use fossil fuels to put food on the table, it makes you realize we need diverse perspectives to help meet tomorrow’s needs.

The CHS Foundation opens the eyes of students of all ages and from all backgrounds to the endless opportunities that are available in agriculture. We support their career aspirations through youth leadership programs, scholarships, university partnerships, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and more. Over the next three years, the CHS Foundation will invest $11.5 million to enlighten 25,000 students about ag careers, teach 12,000 people about co-ops, and motivate 125,000 future leaders. We partner with strong institutions and programs to magnify the impact of every dollar.

Over the years, teachers have told me how thankful they are to receive funding from farmer-owned cooperatives. I’ve also seen how critical it is for young people to have continuity in their ag programs. Through the National Teach Ag Campaign, the CHS Foundation helps recruit and retain high school ag teachers dedicated to inspiring the next generation of leaders.

Ag teachers are known for being innovative and creative. The CHS Foundation recently helped 10 teachers bring big ideas to life by giving them $500 grants for providing hands-on experiences – a simple idea you might consider in your own community. Schools used the grants to buy equipment for an agriscience lab and an ag mechanics’ shop, fund artificial insemination training, purchase weed-mapping technology, and help students produce greenhouse crops, eggs, honey and syrup. As one teacher said: “This project is popular among students because it teaches real world skills and allows students to explore their passion for agriculture.” Let’s keep working together to fuel that enthusiasm.