(Selden, NY May 28, 2014)—Last week, County Executive Steve Bellone convened school officials and agricultural leaders at Suffolk Community College’s Ammerman Campus to discuss the long-term sustainability of Suffolk County’s robust agricultural history through the creation of an agricultural curriculum and programs for K-12 students.
“We are currently facing an agricultural brain-drain that is threatening the continued success of the farming industry in Suffolk County,” stated County Executive Bellone. “If we cannot find a way to create the next generation of Suffolk County farmers, the long-term sustainability of this industry will be in jeopardy. A major contributor to the brain-drain is the lack of familiarity among students and educators about apprenticeship programs and long-term career opportunities that exist in the agricultural sector. I am encouraged by the discussions that took place today and look forward to continuing to move this initiative forward which will assist in ensuring the economic vitality and diversity of Suffolk County.”
During the symposium, agricultural leaders educated the participants as to the diversity of skill sets needed for a career in the agricultural industry which include: robotics, biology, technology, database management, marketing, and financial management, just to name a few. This information proved to be extremely helpful as BOCES committed to further explore the development of educational tracks which will help to support the labor needs of the industry.
“Eastern Suffolk BOCES through its Eastern Long Island Academy for Applied Technology seeks to prepare students for the ever changing labor landscape,” said Peggie Staib, Ed.D. Associate Superintendent for Educational Services. “The dialogue initiated by County Executive Bellone will help inform planning for agriculture curriculum connections, future career technical education opportunities and collaboration with "agri-leaders" to promote careers related to preserving and promoting Suffolk's farming industry. We look forward to working as partners in this effort.”
The consensus from the symposium participants supported a comprehensive approach to developing curriculum and programs to expose students to the agricultural industry. Representatives from Cornell University shared that the NY Ag In the Classroom program has developed a national comprehensive K-12 general curriculum for agriculture entitled: Food, Land and People (FLP). FLP educates students, teachers, and citizens about the interrelationships between food, resources, and people. It is a collection of 55 lessons aligned to NYS and Common Core Learning Standards for grades Pre-K through 12th with lessons reaching across multiple disciplines and subject areas.
“More people than ever before are significantly removed from the production of their food,” stated Juleah Tolosky, New York FFA Executive Secretary Youth Program Specialist Cornell University. “In order to continue to serve a booming population and support existing farms and agribusinesses, it’s critical that students are exposed to accurate and engaging agricultural education lessons in school settings. Many schools are interested in this and many don’t realize there are resources and programs already in existence to help do exactly that. Cornell University’s Agricultural Outreach and Education program connects citizens, agriculturalists and – most importantly – teachers with resources, programs and support systems to begin educating students about agriculture.”
County Executive Bellone recognizes the rigorous schedule teachers currently have based on implementation of the Common Core curriculum and stated that he only supports lesson plans which would satisfy Common Core requirements, rather than adding an additional burden on teachers.
As a result of the meeting the following action steps were developed:
- Participants should sign-up for the Agriculture & Fishing E-Newsletter - http://eupdates.suffolkcountyny.gov/lists/?p=subscribe&id=1. This newsletter frequently includes information about grant opportunities for agricultural education, school gardens, and Farm2School efforts as those opportunities become available. There is also a list of on-going resources and opportunities on the County’s Agriculture & Fishing webpage - http://www.suffolkcountyny.gov/Business/AgriculturalandFishing.aspx. Participants may also choose to follow the Suffolk County Food Policy Council on Facebook or Twitter and the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development & Planning on Facebook or Twitter.
- Explore the possibility of creating an Agricultural Education School Advisory Board. The County will work on building a database to help match agricultural mentoring/apprenticeship programs with schools looking to place students in those roles.
- The County will distribute a survey to school administrators to get a sense of their current level of involvement in agricultural education and their desire to begin or expand their agricultural education offerings.
- The County will look at similar regions in New York to evaluate the appropriateness and effectiveness of different agricultural educational curriculum and programs.
“Farming is no longer just a farmer driving his tractor,” stated Carl Gabrielsen, a local farmer and member of the Suffolk County Planning Commission. “It is quickly becoming a hi-tech industry that will need highly trained individuals to sustain agriculture on Long Island. We will need to develop our young people and offer them the great opportunities this new world of farming has to offer.”