Their students study animal science so they can become veterinarians, and they dig into horticulture or landscaping so they can own their own business some day.
Across the county, agricultural students also study food science so they can work on food formulas at nationwide companies. Other agriculture classes teach them to be welders and engineers.
Thursday is National Teach Ag Day, named by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. Across the county, hundreds of students take agricultural classes at three high schools and at Central Nine Career Center.
Classes cover natural resources, animal science and food science. The main goal for students is typically not to take over the family farm, agricultural teachers said.
Students enroll to learn skills that will be launching pads for other careers. And increasingly, students enrolling in agricultural classes have no previous connection to the industry, educators said.
“Teaching (agriculture) has changed a lot over the last few years. I see more and more students that don’t have any type of agricultural background coming into the classroom eager to learn about the industry. This is an awesome change, as it means we can expand the diversity of the industry,” said Hannah Goeb, agricultural teacher at Whiteland Community High School.
They want skills they will learn so they can become veterinarians, welders, landscapers, business owners, engineers and food scientists.
“Most of the students who come here are either wanting to own their own business or go into the industries,” said Joe Ramey, agricultural teacher at Central Nine Career Center.
Students at Indian Creek, Franklin Community High School and Whiteland Community High School all have the option to enroll in agricultural classes as an elective. Students at other schools who want to learn about agriculture can enroll at Central Nine Career Center to get a peek at careers through the technical school that serves students at schools in Johnson County and on the south side of Indianapolis.
Some students do go on to work on the family farm where they grew up. Mostly, students go on from studying agriculture to earn a technical associate’s degrees or bachelor’s degrees in other fields. Some agricultural classes at Whiteland also earn dual credit for college courses, Goeb said.
Agricultural classes can lead to high-paying careers and jobs, such as welding, and students get their start in high school classes, said Joe Dunn, agricultural teacher at Indian Creek High School.
Taking these classes in high school means students are finding out what they want to do sooner and can get there faster with a two-year degree, Dunn said.
“Everybody pushes, go to college, go to college you have to have a four-year degree to be successful in life,” Dunn said. “We teach career skills specific to what a student might have an interest in.”
The classes also can attract students who have not had agricultural experience, said Ramey.
Some job fields in agriculture, such as environmental science and landscaping, are in demand, which is prompting some students to pursue those careers, Ramey said.
“The need in our industry is drastically growing,” he said. “We are attune more to what we need in our nature.”
Other students are interested in the industry that feeds the world and want to know more about it. That type of learning should be required for all high school students, Goeb said.
“I am a big advocate of the idea that every student should take at least one agricultural class during their educational experience. It gives them a big appreciation for many things in their daily life they take for granted,” she said.
Two students from Whiteland have received National American FFA degrees.
Ashley Nicole Corn and Emily Brooke Dougherty, members of the Whiteland FFA chapter in Indiana, will be awarded the American FFA Degree at the 90th National FFA Convention in October.
The American FFA Degree is awarded to a select group of students in recognition of their years of academic and professional excellence.
To be eligible, FFA members must have earned and productively invested $10,000 through a supervised agricultural experience program in which they start, own or hold a professional position in an existing agricultural enterprise. Recipients must also complete 50 hours of community service and demonstrate outstanding leadership abilities and civic involvement.