Globally-Based SAEs - Encouraging Students to Experience International Agriculture

Article excerpt

The barriers expressed by students during SAE development are beginning to follow a pattern. Traditional production-based SAE projects are not ideal for an increasing number of today's students, and the need for innovative, non-traditional projects is growing across the nation. Providing students with applicable, relevant experiences through which they can develop their agricultural knowledge is a critical component of an agricultural education program. Finding meaningful SAEs to address these barriers, as well as the changing practices of agriculture, can be daunting for even the most creative teacher. As agriculture becomes a more globally-intertwined industry, globally-focused SAEs offer opportunities for students to develop agricultural knowledge and experience in creative, easily-accessible ways.

The theme of the March/April 2010 issue of The Agricultural Education Magazine was "An International View of Agricultural Education." In that issue, Dr. Boone, Editor, posited that an agriculture program does not have to center around one geographical perspective, although many currently focus on local agriculture (Boone, 2010). However, the need for and trend toward agricultural interdependence between countries creates an opportunity and a calling for students to become familiar with agriculture from a global perspective (National Research Council, 2009). Countries collaborate to maintain crop biodiversity (Hicks, 2010), test crop varieties in differing climates (Brasher, 2010), increase food security (Fayle, 20 1 0), and address global problems, such as climate change, water management, and hunger. The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) currently supports centers in over 100 countries whose focuses include forestry, livestock, food policy, crops, water management, fish, and tropical agriculture (CGIAR, 2010). Student connections to agriculture in other countries can begin with international agricultural organizations, such as CGIAR, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the International Federation of Agricultural Producers. The presence of these organizations is an obvious sign that global agriculture is necessary and important; teachers are responsible for exposing students to the global trends in today's agricultural industries, and can do so through globally-focused SAEs.

Traditional SAEs reflecting student interests are often not feasible due to a variety of student and situational factors. However, exposure to real-life situations involving these interests is still crucial to a student's understanding of agricultural practices. Blending student interests in agricultural practices with this international perspective helps turn traditional SAE projects into innovative, user-friendly SAEs that appeal to many of today's students (see Figure 1)

Globally-based SAEs provide unique benefits to students, as well as to the entire agriculture department. By adding an international component to an SAE, the student gains an understanding and appreciation for factors that make up the world of agriculture existing beyond the scope of his or her previous personal experiences. Cultures that affect food selection and agricultural practices in foreign countries are typically out of the realm of student experiences, creating in these students a narrow view of what is "right" regarding what to eat and how food should be produced. Students exposed to cultural diversity in an exploratory, real-life fashion gives opportunity for a greater appreciation of the many cultural differences that dictate global agriculture industries.

Many of the agricultural issues affecting communities are relevant problems in other parts of the world as well. Further, some of our nation's critical issues affecting policy, such as water management, the current unstable economy, animal welfare, alternative fuel sources, and environmental concerns, are shared with many nations due to their global nature. …