Creating Symbiotic Relationships between Agriculture and the Community

Article excerpt

Growing up in a small South Georgia town, my only hopes and desires were to grow up, go to college, graduate, become a teacher and buy me a couple of acres of land to live on. I wanted the white, picket fence, a wife, two-kids and a dog named Spot. I only knew of a few job opportunities growing up; teacher, police or doctor. I thought everyone in the world knew everything there was about the importance of agriculture. I tried to understand completely why my dad (a retired agriculture teacher) would always be involved in community activities. He worked at the community canning plant in the summers, held night classes for adult farmers, supervised the local "hog" shows, visited all his students and their parents daily, sung in the choir and still hummed to himself each night at 7:00 while he asked me to bring him a glass of water and his slippers.

Then as I got older, it all made sense ..... Until, I was in California visiting my fiance's family and I was talking to one of her relatives (a lawyer) who said to me, "Why did you major in agriculture? Why would you go to school to become an agriculture teacher? Do we really need majors like that?" My first thought was to say something out of character, but then it became a teachable moment. Not everyone understands the importance of agriculture in our lives and this would be a prime time to develop a professional relationship with an individual, unaware of its importance.

To model this teachable moment, the purpose of this article is to provide a framework in utilizing symbiotic relationships to reference the linkage of a total agricultural education programs three equal components, FFA, Classroom/Lab, SAE (Talbert, Vaughn, Croom & Lee, 2007), to include and enhance community relationships. In developing relations with other professionals in the local community, agricultural educators must continue to model the ideal total program while incorporating additional symbiotic relationships in agriculture (see Figure 1).

Symbiotic Relationships in Agriculture

Relationships vary greatly depending on the demographics of the community to which the agriculture program is nestled. Agriculture teachers are able to reach out to community members and leaders to establish their educational program by forming the following:

1 . Advisory Committees

2. Summer Institutes/Workshops

3. Community Service

4. Curriculum Development

Agriculture teachers must be equipped with the tools and resources that will allow them to show students and people in the community the endless possibilities available within and throughout the agricultural industry.

Advisory Committees

One way in which agriculture educators can develop relationships with community professionals is through advisory committees. The purpose of advisory committees is to help improve the agricultural education concerns of people in the district (Phipps & Osborne, 1988), and to ascertain job opportunities for students. These committees are made up of various community members that should represent all areas of vocational concerns to students in the classroom and assist in disseminating information out to the public.

Curriculum Development

The greatest benefit the agricultural education program can reap through building professional relationships (i.e. with individuals in the community) is to receive assistance in curriculum development. Agricultural educators have used the ideas, modeled programs and social events as a creative means of building relationships for projecting curriculum design (Wiles & Bondi, 2002). Educators can turn to individuals within the community for assistance with instructional units they may lack. …