May-June 2021

Page 46

FEATURE Collaboration Connection

Agribusiness Educational Programming Experiencing Rapid Growth AFNR Curriculum On the Rise in Minnesota Schools $1,190,000,000,000. That’s over 1 trillion with a T. It’s also the amount agriculture, food, and related industries contributed to the U.S. gross domestic product in 2019: $1.19 trillion. Not too shabby! That number will only continue to grow, which explains why agribusiness professionals are in demand and ag education is hot, hot, hot. If you’re picturing a lot of empty tractor seats as you read this, you couldn’t be more wrong. Farmers will always be the backbone of the industry, but there is also demand for employees in biotech, engineering, software, automation, natural resources, finance, marketing, and communications. The list of related careers goes on and on. 46

May | June 2021

“One of the challenges we face is encouraging students and families to see the demand and potential in the agriculture, food, and natural resource industry. It offers high wage, high status, and high quality of life careers that will provide financial flexibility and a balanced future,” Ethan Dado said. Dado is an agriculture, food, and natural resource, or AFNR, instructor and FFA adviser for Mankato Area Public Schools. To meet the demands of the industry, area schools and colleges are adding courses, hiring faculty, and building labs and greenhouse at a rapid pace. To learn more, I spoke with three area educators who are busy creating new learning opportunities at Mankato public schools and colleges.

Mankato Area Public Schools (MAPS) Independent School District 77 introduced its AFNR program at Mankato East and Mankato West high schools during the 2019-20 school year. “The demand for talent in AFNR careers is why our program was established two years ago,” Dado said. “The community saw the need and advocated with the district to play their part in preparing for the future of the industry.” The high school program has proven wildly popular, growing exponentially in a truly short time. “The first year we only had 40 students enrolled in our program. For the 2020-21 academic year, we added two more AFNR

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