Kirksville Vocational Highschool is an amazing place. 

As I walked through into the ag building, I immediately knew this was a practical place of learning. Electrical saws and recently constructed wooden chairs indicated that this is a place where people make things and grow things, and in the process of doing so, learn things. It's the kind of place where students who want to be carpenters learn a craft, where students who want to be farmers learn to plant seeds, raise animals, and grow food and knowledge. 

Jason Dimmitt and Mary Leykamp were kind enough to welcome me into their school, to trust that together, the FFA students and all of us, would have a constructive conversation about agriculture. 

Students asked relevant, practical and vital conversations and we had discussions about what the advantages and disadvantages are of various forms of production. We talked about the fact that the mechanization of agriculture has allowed less people to feed more people, something that we should all be grateful for, that because of industrial farming we are able to sit here today and even have this conversation. We also talked about how this mechanization has led to a loss of population in rural America. That highschools often consolidate, and 2, 3, 4 school districts have to merge into one, in order to have enough young people in the seats learning, to have a school. At what point do we need to stop? Do we want drone tractors, peopleless tractors to raise our corn and soybeans, and to have one farmer per county, who's job is ultimately to make sure the tractors are running smoothly? That could be one future for agriculture. Or do we want to shift a larger percentage of our agriculture to pasture based systems, that are more labor intensive, and therefore will make it more possible for farm families to keep the next generation on the farm? What would happen if niche production moved from 1% of the market to 20%? Would that be a good thing for rural America? 

We talked about how the cost of land is the biggest hurdle for young farmers. That often when an acreage comes up for sale, a 20 year old gets out bid by his 60 year old counterpart. How much longer can this happen before the young fellow gives up and goes to town to get a job? Can our country survive if we don't find ways to get land in the hands of young people?

We talked about how there is no perfect agricultural system, and we asked important questions like, how can we feed 9 billion people with broiler pens and elbow grease? Or should one country be dependent on another country for the bulk of their food? Or how will the rising cost of energy impact food choices?

There was a lot of spirited discussion, a lot of important ideas exchanged. One young farmer Jade, exhibited poise and charisma beyond his years, and I hope that he's soon elected to leadership in Missouri FFA at the state level. 

 In conversations with Jason and Mary, I felt good about the teachers who teach our youngest farmers, to see the dedication and passion for AgEd, to see the real learning taking place, the practical application of life experience. I'm grateful for the trust they placed in what we're doing, and for both of them, and the students for joining us in a constructive conversation about the future of our nation's agriculture. 


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published this page in Ruminations 2012-10-17 23:45:37 -0400