By Lauren Schwab
LOUISVILLE – The National FFA Organization recognizes agriculture is more than just the farm. Agriculture influences nearly every profession from the classroom to the farm, science lab to the grocery store.
The National FFA Agriscience Fair brought forth innovative and diverse research projects to the 87th National FFA Convention & Expo. The agriscience fair is for FFA members interested in science and technology of agriculture. FFA members conduct a scientific research project then present their findings to a panel of judges with a display and report.
One aspect of science many do not recognize is social science. In the Social Systems category of the agriscience fair FFA members study human behavior and the interaction of individuals in and to society including agricultural education, agribusiness economic and agricultural communication.
Hannah Parkins of the Buffalo FFA Chapter in West Virginia is a National FFA Agriscience finalist with her research project “What is the Public Perception of Agriculture Education and FFA?” Parkins knew her research results would be useful for the National FFA Organization to reach the goal of 10,000 FFA chapters by 2015.
Parkins aimed to further the initiative by creating a ten question survey and administering it to 80 residents of her home county. After analyzing the data she realized they had a lack of knowledge of what agricultural education is. Parkins furthered the research by going to another county with an FFA program more than 50 years old. She administered the same survey to 80 residents there and compared the two sets of data.
“My most shocking result was out of 160 people only 17 people could name five agricultural careers not including a veterinarian, agricultural teacher or farmer. Most people think agriculture is just about farming when really it has more science and leadership than anything,” Parkins said.
Her research results motivated her to make a brochure for middle school students to start learning about FFA before they get to high school. Parkins published her results in the local newspaper so the public can understand what is actually taught.
“My county is looking to get a new FFA chapter next year, so I hope my results will make the public interested in wanting an FFA program,” Parkins said.
Also presenting her Social Systems research project “I Didn’t Know That Was Agriculture” is Sarah Vansten of the Wrightstown FFA Chapter in Wisconsin.
“Wrightstown is a rural community; however it has been fading away from production agriculture. My friends commonly say they did not know something (a career) was part of agriculture,” Vansten said.
Her research consisted of administering a pre and post-test to 175 eighth grade students about their awareness of agricultural careers on seven career pathways. The career pathway that increased the most was the agribusiness systems.
“A lot of kids don’t understand how sales and marketing and education play a huge role in agriculture, however after taking this class their awareness was increased,” Vansten said.
The National FFA Agriscience Fair Social System finalists highlight the importance of agricultural education to ensure agriculture professions continue to prosper.