Naperville, a once thriving farming town, turned toward urbanization in the 1970s. Since then, interest in agriculture hasn’t quite been the same. That’s where the Future Farmers of America come in.
“Future Farmers of America was founded actually 90 years ago today. And it was founded because there was a fear that kids were not going into farming. They were leaving the family farms. So we’re really excited today to see Future Farmers of America back at our local schools. I think for some similar reasons as they were founded 90 years ago,” said Donna Sack, the vice president of community engagement at Naper Settlement.
School District 203 is revitalizing its agriculture curriculum, which includes connecting students in that program with their own FFA chapter affiliated with the national organization.
“So FFA used to stand for the Future Farmers of America. They actually changed their name in 1988 to be the National FFA Organization, to take out ‘farmers.’ To show that agriculture is a lot more than farming and you can see that right here – we don’t farm but everything we do in these two classrooms with all of the animals, all of the plants, with our food – that’s agriculture as well,” explained Colby Gregg, a teacher of agriscience at Naperville Central and advisor for its FFA chapter.
The newly reworked agriscience classes include companion animal biology and floral design. Courses like these emphasize hands-on learning and real world application.
“Students may take chemistry, some of those students may use chemistry in the future but a lot of those students aren’t,” said Gregg. “If a student takes companion animal biology, yes they’re learning about the science behind all of the animals but they’re also getting to be able to use that down the line and when they have a pet or they’re kids have a pet. So this is really going to stick with them and these experiences are going to go with them too.”
Last year about 200 students were enrolled in agriscience courses at Naperville Central and this year there were 300. Similarly, just three years ago, the school’s FFA chapter had six members, whereas today there are 29 members.
Naperville Central’s FFA advisor, Colby Gregg, is asking any local organizations that wish to connect with their FFA chapter to reach out to him for possible community outreach opportunities.
Changing the way students think about farming for our future and theirs.
Naperville News 17’s Christine Lena reports.