Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources
Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs in Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources introduce opportunities to careers in farming, agricultural engineering, and food, animal, and plant science.
CTE’s Agriculture pathway offers experience in careers like ranching, veterinarian science, and horticulture.
Modern agricultural studies involve more than just farming and ranching. The agriculture industry is a vibrant, evolving, and high-demand field. From visiting a pumpkin farm, the Texas state fair, or a Christmas tree farm, to attending livestock shows with award-winning cattle, longhorns, sheep, and pigs, the field of agriculture surrounds us in all aspects of life.
The Agriculture Cluster offers a wide variety of CTE courses while in high school. Some students can simultaneously participate in organizations like the FFA and work toward certifications in their areas of interests while taking high school classes.
What is agriculture?
Merriam-Webster states the agriculture definition as the science, art, or practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock.
Thie agriculture CTE cluster focuses on essential elements—food, water, land, and air. Students interested in agriculture can aspire to many different occupations, including farmer, rancher, dairy farm manager, veterinarian, geologist, land conservationist, and florist. Studies in agriculture can also include non-traditional agricultural fields like wind and solar energy, or oil and gas production.
What is FFA?
The FFA, or Future Farmers of America, is a popular youth organization that prepares student members for leadership, personal growth, and successful careers through agricultural education. The FFA emblem represents the FFA ideals of unity, progress, and freedom.
The FFA promotes members to participate in agriculture-related events. One of the biggest events takes place at The State Fair of Texas’ Big Tex Youth Livestock Auction and Scholarship Program. Student exhibitors can sell projects at the Texas State Fair through a live auction. The students invest time, passion, and energy in livestock animals like sheep, cattle, and longhorns. The FFA also supports members in many other large events across Texas and the United States at livestock shows at the Houston Rodeo, the Fort Worth Stock Show, the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, and the National Western Stock Show. Through these events and other conservation platforms, students develop passion and knowledge in sustainable management of the environment. These students can become future stewards of natural resources that are critical to our future in agriculture.
FFA members are future veterinarians, chemists, government officials, bankers, entrepreneurs, international business leaders, and teachers, among others in different career fields. Many CTE students join FFA to become even more industry-ready for their agricultural careers after high school.
CTE students are introduced to Agribusiness in Principles of Agriculture courses. These classes prepare students for futures in sustainable farming, ranching, farm and ranch loan officers, and farm product sales and marketing. Students interested in Agribusiness can gain experience while in high school by working on a farm or a ranch or intern with a farm equipment company.
What is Sustainable Farming?
Today’s agriculture education focuses on sustainability. Sustainable farming means producing food, fiber, plant, or animal products while preserving natural resources. Sustainability reporting is the disclosure of a company’s environmental, social, and governance goals and progress. A sustainability report also considers social responsibilities like working conditions of farmers and the agricultural workers who maintain crops and tend livestock. (One Plate)
Many people use agricultural studies in order to sustainably live off the grid. Living off the grid encompasses sustainable living, renewable energy, and reducing consumable resources. It is basically “living off the land”. (Off Grid World)
Studying sustainable farming allows agriculture scientists to protect the public from dangerous farming practices and products. In the past, companies like Monsanto faced public opposition to its use of genetically modified organisms and harmful chemicals. (Britannica.com) Understanding agriculture is the best defense in ensuring that farms and farming practices are safe for employees and consumers.
Sustainability and the Farm Bill
What is the Farm Bill?
The farm bill addresses crop insurance for farmers, access to healthy food for low-income families, beginning farmer training, and support for sustainable farming practices. Agriculture education is important to ensure that the farm bill efficiently covers all aspects of farming needs.
Animal science CTE classes are geared toward careers in veterinary science, wildlife and zoology, and animal breeding. High school students can obtain certification as a licensed veterinary technician, certified veterinary assistant, cattle caretaker, or feed technician. Animal Science CTE students can gain hands-on knowledge by participating in 4H clubs, volunteering at a local farm, or interning at a veterinary clinic.
Careers in the Animal Science field include animal breeders, animal scientists, veterinarians, medical scientists, wildlife biologists, and zoologists.
Applied Agricultural Engineering
The Applied Agricultural Engineering pathway introduces CTE students to the study of agricultural problems concerned with soil and water conservation, power and machinery, structures, electrification, and processing agricultural products. Students may explore diagnosing, repairing, or overhauling farm machinery, such as tractors, irrigation systems, harvesters, and dairy equipment. Certifications offered in some schools can include a general OSHA certification, welding, and machinery technician.
Careers in the Applied Agricultural Engineering field include farm equipment mechanics, welders, farm equipment service technicians, small engine mechanics, mobile heavy equipment mechanics, irrigation designers, and agricultural engineers.
Environmental and Natural Resources
CTE courses in Environmental and Natural Resources involve the research, design, and planning for prevention and control of environmental hazards. This program of study may include research for identifying or eliminating sources of pollutants or hazards that affect the environment or public health. Students interested in these CTE courses can earn certifications in water operations, wastewater collections, and hazardous waste operations. They can work to become future environmental engineers, water technologists, zoologists, and wildlife biologists.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife organization offers agriculture and natural resources students a pathway to Texas Parks and Wildlife jobs like game wardens, wildlife technicians, state park operations, and work in fisheries across the state.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts
Wildlife conservation is a growing topic in agriculture studies. Many organizations and companies across the globe are involved in natural resource and wildlife conservation efforts.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) saves wildlife and the wilderness worldwide through science, conservation, and education while inspiring people to value nature. Based at the Bronx Zoo, WCS runs a Global Conservation Program that is visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in wildlife, zoos, and aquariums to achieve its conservation mission.
One of the largest and most recognizable private sector advocates for conservation is Bass Pro Shop Conservation. The Bass Pro Shop company prides itself on its partnership with over 250 conservation organizations to restore millions of acres of natural habitat.
Food Science and Technology
Occupations and educational opportunities within Food Science are associated with working in food, fiber, and animal research, along with production and processing. This program of study can also include experience with animal breeding, nutrition, and conducting experiments to improve crops or to increase the resistance of plants to disease or insects. CTE learners can gain real-world experience by touring or interning at food processing facilities.
Food Science students can work to become future agronomists, crop advisors, food science technicians, and inspectors.
Plant Science studies focus on the science, research, and business of plants and other organisms. Plant Science CTE teaches students how to apply biology and life science to real-world processes of plants in laboratories or in the field. Students following the Plant Science pathway can look forward to certifications in Landscape Irrigation, Pesticide Application, or Level 1 and 2 Floral Design. They can earn experience during high school by working at a florist or landscaping business.
Careers in the Plant Science field include florists, tree trimmers/pruners, soil and plant scientists, horticulturists, and biological technicians.
Sources and Additional Information on CTE and Agriculture:
- Texas CTE- Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources
- Texas Department of Agriculture
- Texas Parks and Wildlife- Careers
- Texas Parks and Wildlife- Find Horseback Riding Near Me
- National Farmers Market Directory- Find a Farmers Market Near Me
- Agribusiness Program of Study
- Animal Science Program of Study
- Applied Agricultural Engineering Program of Study
- Environmental and Natural Resources Program of Study
- Food Science Program of Study
- Plant Science Program of Study