Building pathways to agriculture education
November 8, 2018
As cities like San Antonio grow in population, it's important for the population to understand where their food comes from. A larger population leads to more grocery stores and restaurants, which in turn means that advancements in food science and technology are necessary to meet growing demands.
"As soon as you wake up, you have agriculture. You eat breakfast, you get dressed, you take your car to work – everybody sees that," said Ty Chumbley, lead instructor for Palo Alto College's agriculture program. "When you ask, 'Raise your hand if you've used agriculture today,' a lot of people say that they don't because they don't understand the interaction of how what we do [in agriculture] affects them on a daily basis."
Palo Alto College's agriculture program is not only educating the students enrolled in its program, but also the community. Chumbley makes a point to put his students in front of local elementary, middle, and high school students to educate them about the importance of agriculture from a young age.
This fall, the agriculture program is expanding their outreach to elementary schools through the "Grow with PAC" program. Through a partnership with the Children's Hunger Fund, Grow with PAC put together 185 boxes of garden starter kits, containing a variety of fruit, vegetable, and flower seeds. The agriculture students then delivered the boxes, helped plant the gardens, and educated the children and teachers about agriculture and growing their crops. Then, the students will return to the schools in the spring to do sessions about animal science.
"Long term, our goal is to develop a community of agriculture; a community of gardens sponsored by PAC agriculture," said Chumbley. "Our goal with Grow with PAC is to get them involved in elementary school, and then get them involved with FFA (Future Farmers of America) programs at the high school level, and they'll continue to grow with PAC in college."
On Nov. 2, the College hosted more than 35 schools from central and south Texas high school FFA Chapters in the fourth annual Palo Alto College Agriculture Leadership Conference. More than 330 high school students competed in nine different events promoting leadership, agriculture innovation, and teamwork. The College's agriculture students who helped run the event gave tours of the campus.
"It's a big event to help build up ag leaders in Texas," said Chumbley. "It's good way for kids across Texas to really step foot on Palo Alto [College]'s campus and see what we're doing here."
Throughout the day, students competed in agriculture events including Greenhand chapter conducting; Greenhand quiz; senior chapter conducting; senior quiz; ag advocacy; public relations; radio; and creed.
"We need to be a part of the learning and the outreach to reach out to our South Side community and the people of San Antonio and tell them that agriculture is important, and there's lots of jobs there," said Chumbley. "Agriculture is from the farm to production to the plate at the restaurant. Everyone who touches that product along the way is part of agriculture."
Agriculture and farming technology is one of the fastest growing technological advancements in Texas, along with food science. Learn more about Palo Alto College's Agriculture program »