Agriculture Science and Technology Programs in Urban Markets: Adapt and Thrive, Stagnate and Die

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THEME ARTICLE

Most of us involved in the world of agriculture realize that modern agriculture is changing rapidly, and today's Agricultural Science and Technology programs must change to meet those needs. The urban market presents a whole new set of challenges. The majority of students and parents alike have no agriculture background and possess a low level of agricultural literacy. How can we educate the community and motivate young people to look at the exciting and challenging world of Agricultural Science and Technology?

Today's urban agri-science students are working with DNA strands, growing plants in test tubes, raising fish in greenhouses, and growing plants hydroponically. While working in laboratory settings the urban student is learning the same concept as the rural student, but perhaps with more focus on the latest technology. This approach helps to capture the student with a science concentration and/or a non-traditional agri-science student. Today's agriscience instructor learns alongside the students through inquiry rather than providing all the information, as well as all the answers.

The trends in the urban market are focusing more on the integration of science and agriculture and using new mediums to learn the same basic concepts related to livestock production and management. Courses are being redesigned to meet the interest and needs of today's students in the urban market. Animal and Plant Science classes are now more specific with names such as: Veterinary Science, Turf and Landscape Management, Equine Science, and Aquaculture, just to name a few.

Those involved in the agriculture industry, particularly production agriculture know the difficult economic situation facing today's farmers. The city folks must understand the plight of the American farmer and how critical he/she is to the welfare of the economy and political strength of the United States. At the same time, the city folks need to realize where their bread and butter comes from and what a bargain it is as compared to the rest of the world. They need to have a new appreciation for the agriculturists that fill their breadbaskets.

The 14-acre North Clackamas Agriculture Land Lab, situated in an urban setting, located ten miles south of Portland, Oregon is surrounded by expensive homes. The large red barns trimmed in white, white vinyl fences enclosing the lab, cattle, sheep, pigs, and John Deere tractors attract students. The program is attractive to the "city kid" because of the hands-on opportunities and relevance to the real world. The Land Lab is home to students from three high schools which make up the North Clackamas School District and also serves as a regional center for three additional high schools.

Students are bussed to the Land Lab every other day for a 2-hour block. During their class time, they receive instruction in the classroom and then get to apply that knowledge in real world applications on the Land Lab. The curriculum is changing from a traditional program to a more integrated science program working with biology and science teachers on joint projects. Through various grants over the last several years, the program has built 3 greenhouses, to give students the opportunity to work with horticulture, aquaculture, hydroponics, aquaponics, aeroponics, tissue culture, and biotechnology. More focus has been placed on agricultural sales and marketing, agriculture issues, agri-business management, and application of leadership skills through project-based learning and service learning.

Some of the key challenges for the agri-science instructor today are keeping current with all the new terminology, equipment, and the application of new technology. Grant seeking and writing has also become more important as school funding has changed drastically over the last several years. The titles of the course offerings have changed from the traditional Agriculture 1,2,3 and 4 to Introduction to Agricultural Science, Agricultural Science and Technology, Agri-Business Management, Animal and Plant Science, Equine Science, and Veterinary Science. …