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Agriculture Education Thriving in Midwest

John Brewer, associate administrator and general sales manager for the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) of USDA recently paid a visit to the students of the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences (CHAS) to see firsthand the value of agriculture education. The school was excited to have Mr. Brewer visit the school as one of the many special events for students, who were embarking on a month full of agricultural education events including the World Food Prize in Des Moines and the 82nd Annual National FFA Convention in Indianapolis.

The mission of CHAS is to provide opportunities for diverse students from across the city to study agriculture. The school works to develop technologically proficient graduates with marketable skills as well as college-level competencies who will have the power to change the image of agriculture in urban areas. The school has approximately 600 students from all over the city who possess special talents in science and math.

USDA officials and employees have visited the school several times over the years to address the students on the role of the organization, current issues related to agriculture, and job and internship opportunities.

Mr. Brewer toured the school and spoke to a class of approximately 25 students regarding the role of FAS. Students at the school can choose from five career pathways: food science; animal science; horticultural and landscape design; agriculture finance and economics; and agricultural mechanics and technology. Mr. Brewer talked about the importance of each of these to agriculture around the world.

A group of approximately 20 students stayed after school for a roundtable discussion with Mr. Brewer. These students represented a variety of grade levels and career paths, including FFA officers. The school boasts the largest National FFA Organization chapter in the Midwest and all students at the school are members.

During the roundtable, Mr. Brewer spoke about his role at FAS and the career path that led him to his current position. Many of the students posed questions regarding current issues related to agriculture such as H1N1 and food security. The quality of their education was evident as the students were extremely informed about current agriculture issues, asking thoughtful questions and offering insightful observations during this roundtable discussion.

It is the hope that additional representatives from USDA can continue to visit schools like the CHAS to spread the message about the importance of agricultural education and the opportunities the USDA provides for those seeking a career in agriculture.