By Alaina Bartel
There are seven billion people that inhabit the Earth. That’s a number that’s seemingly unfathomable-it’s difficult for the human mind to grasp just how big that number is. To put it into perspective: seven billion seconds ago, the year was 1789. That’s the year George Washington was inaugurated as the first United States president. In 2050, that number is expected to rise by two billion. That’s nine billion people.
Tiffany Nuhfer, the National FFA Organization advisor at Willard High school, located in the Firelands, prepares the future of this country-her FFA students-for that number of people and instills a passion for agriculture in them.
“We have to figure out a way to feed those nine billion people-2050 is in our lifetime. That’s in these kids lifetimes, and we have to be able to (feed them) with less resources,” Nuhfer said. “We don’t have land to expand to grow more food, so we have to become better as an industry to feed the country so in order to do that we have to put the passion of agriculture into kids and we have to encourage kids to go into that field because they are the future.”
Similar to the changing agriculture industry, what was once knows at Future Farmers of America, or FFA, is now referred to as the National FFA Organization: an all encompassing field that not only includes production agriculture, but several different pathways that students can choose from. Some of those pathways include: agribusiness systems-business and financial management and entrepreneurship, animal systems-anything related to animals, and biotechnology, among several other fields.
“Biotechnology is something new to the agricultural world-using agricultural waste such as manure to produce energy for us to use, that’s kind of a new career field,” she said. “Also environmental science, I teach that here at the high school. Plant science, and technical systems-giving them technical skills such as welding, woodworking, electricity, and things like that. We also do some communication preparation that students can use in marketing employment opportunities, like public speaking.”
Nuhfer said one of the biggest things about FFA is that even if students don’t go into agriculture, they can still use the skills they learned in the program.
“I think one of biggest things, specific to Ohio that needs to be recognized is that 20 percent of our careers in Ohio are agricultural based. So that doesn’t necessarily mean production agriculture anymore. It doesn’t mean you have to be a farmer to be in agricultural education,” she said. “We want to be able to touch as many students as possible. As far as communication and public speaking, and we have a job interview contest, those are skills that anybody will need post high school whether they go to college or into their career field.”
She said most of her students go to college at The Ohio State University and are enrolled in agricultural education there-and she believes that’s partly her doing.
“I think that I probably play a role in that because I take them on campus tours. Ohio State has an incredible agricultural college. I have one student in agricultural education, she’s going to school to be an agricultural teacher,” Nuhfer said. “I have students in agricultural communications, which would be the business aspect of it. We have students in agronomy, which would be row crops, corn and wheat, and (they study) soil science.”
She added that four seniors that graduated last year are all at Ohio State and out of seven seniors graduating this year, she expects five of them to go to college for something agriculture related. Nuhfer said she enjoys watching them grow as individuals and business-minded young adults.
“I love instilling a passion for agriculture in students and I love watching them develop into career ready individuals-watching a student who has a fear of public speaking get involved in contests where they are voicing their own opinions and really just seeing that development in kids that’s not necessarily a test score, but something that I know will be life-changing,” she said.