Academic journal article NACTA Journal

College Students' Knowledge of Sustainable Agriculture and Its Implications on the Agricultural Education Curriculum

Academic journal article NACTA Journal

College Students' Knowledge of Sustainable Agriculture and Its Implications on the Agricultural Education Curriculum

Article excerpt

Introduction

Sustainability rests on the principle that we use available natural resources to meet our present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to derive enough satisfaction from the same set of resources (Muma et al., 2010). In general terms, an activity is considered sustainable if it can be carried out indefinitely without depleting resources. Futures forecasting and early adoption constituents indicate that agricultural systems must provide the food and fiber that humanity needs today, but also be able to sustain what the human family will require a decade or even a century from now (Robertson and Swinton, 2005). Educational systems will need to equip students with the knowledge of sustainable agriculture as a viable solution to combat the problems of resource depletion and environmental misuse.

Inclusion of sustainable agriculture topics in both the high school and college agriculture curriculum can provide solutions to the environmental problems associated with production. Williams (2000) indicated that a sustainable agriculture curriculum could indeed enhance a lasting rural economic development by enriching the scientific teaching of agriculture in colleges and schools. This in turn strengthens and expands college students' prowess. One of the most common inadequacies of the traditional agriculture curriculum may range from too much emphasis on classwork but very little hands-on activities in the field (Borsari, 2001). Experiential learning approach to agriculture avails a practical education system to students. Linking the real world with the classroom should be the concern of every curriculum developer. Sustainable agriculture is an interdisciplinary field in nature that offers solutions to complex societal and environmental problems in the agrifood system, all of which have been unapproachable by any single discipline in agriculture (Francis et al., 2003).

Keating et al. (2010) indicated that a highly technical curriculum for high school and college students is mandatory to adequately prepare students for successful careers and enable them to make informed choices in the global agricultural and natural resource management industries. Proper curriculum development and student preparation is important in enhancing the theme of sustainability. Curriculum materials should equip students with appropriate knowledge on how to utilize available resources to generate a lifetime stream of satisfaction. This paper contributes to the general understanding of students' level of agreement on the important practices of sustainable agriculture and the knowledge level of this important field of agriculture.

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program has been on the forefront advocating for farm practices that are profitable and good forthe environment. It has been able to do this through research and provision of education grants. The National Research Council is the other agency that has been greatly involved in the promotion of sustainable agriculture curriculum (NRC, 2013). The Council has been instrumental in the distribution of instructional materials nationally to assist in integrating sustainable agriculture into high school agricultural education curriculum addressing topics including soil and water conservation, land use and air quality control (NCAE 2000; Muma, 2006).

Social Reconstruction ideologists uphold similar societal beliefs regarding the role of education in reconstructing society to keep it sustainable. They have confidence in the ability of educators to infuse knowledge to citizens in order to protect their environment and surroundings from destruction (McNeil, 2006). An undergraduate sustainable agriculture program relates well with social reconstruction theory. Socialreconstructionism assumes that the survival of our society is threatened by many problems. The theory proposes that the goals of any education system should include interests of individuals as well as those of the entire society. …

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