• warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.

Ag classes coming to CCA

District last offered ag and FFA in the late 1970s
The Future Farmers of America (FFA) logo. Clear Creek Amana High School will reintroduce ag classes next year.

TIFFIN– Next year, blue corduroy jackets might be seen in the hallways of the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) High School in Tiffin, identifying students enrolled in a brand new agricultural education program, which has also joined the Future Farmers of America (FFA).
CCA last offered agricultural classes in the late 1970s in partnership with Kirkwood Community College. However, the college dropped the program and the school district was unable to continue it. Interest in the curriculum and hopes for restarting the program laid dormant like seeds waiting for an opportunity to burst forth.
Jim Seelman and Kevin Kinney were among those keeping interest in ag programing alive.
“As a freshman and sophomore (1978-79), Clear Creek offered Vocational Agriculture (Vo-Ag) through Kirkwood. After my sophomore year, that class was dropped and students have not seen an ag-related class since,” Kinney, a state senator representing District 39, said.
“We never had FFA,” Seelman said, confirming that the Vo-Ag classes dropped away in the late ‘70s. “You’ve got to have the proper support and proper person in-charge,” Seelman said. “We didn’t have that then.”
Kinney and Seelman, both former CCA school board members, joined others in planting the Vo-Ag seed with Superintendent Tim Kuehl when he came to CCA in 2013. “The community, student and parent interest has steadily grown these past few years,” a press release by Laurie Haman, the district’s Communications Director, said. “Initially, students were encouraged to sign up to show their interest, then the district would hire a (Vo-Ag) teacher,” the release said. The district attempted to start an “Ag Club” in an effort to generate interest to further support hiring a teacher. Currently, CCA students are transported to Williamsburg to participate in its ag program.
Interest in agricultural programing further took root last fall as CCA High School Principal Mark Moody attended joint meetings with the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD), which was also exploring implementing similar a program. The decision to move forward with implementing Vo-Ag programming at CCA was made in November with Moody and CCA Middle School Principal Brad Fox taking the lead to develop what the program might look like, and to develop the requirements for a new teaching position.
In December, Kinney organized a meeting referred to as, “The Friends of the FFA,” composed of approximately 20 business leaders and individuals supportive of Vo-Ag programming in the CCA district. CCA’s ag teacher will work with this group to further develop the Vo-Ag and FFA program.
Earlier this year, the district announced the hiring of Alyssa Amelon to teach the classes and lead the FFA program. Amelon is a Southeast Iowa native who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural education with teaching endorsements in the areas of agriculture, biological science and agribusiness. She started teaching as an agricultural educator and FFA advisor in the North Mahaska (County) High School and joined the Keota School District in 2015.
Amelon currently teaches animal science, plant science and construction trades, and is pursuing a master’s degree in educational leadership and administration.
“I grew up on a small family farm in Washington County,” Amelon said. “As a child, I was expected to work outside helping on the farm. I often found myself enjoying the outside chores more than indoors.” She joined the Deer Creek Ramblers 4-H Club in Johnson County as a fourth grader. “I greatly enjoyed my experience in 4-H, which led to joining the FFA when I entered high school. I remained a 4-H member through high school, thus being a member of the FFA and 4-H at the same time.” Amelon was part of the 4-H State Council and a district officer for the FFA. “My involvement in 4-H and FFA led me toward a passion for agriculture,” she said. “I joined the Iowa Corn Growers Association while in college and remain an active member. Agriculture is a close-knit group of people, and I have been impressed since my very first 4-H meeting at the poise and leadership that is possessed in the agriculture industry.”
She will use the CASE (Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education) curriculum, which incorporates STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
“CASE has been around for 13 years now (before “STEM” was a household word),” Melanie Bloom, CASE 4 Learning Curriculum Coordinator, said. “From its inception, one of the purposes of CASE was to purposefully teach science (and mathematics instruction, along with literacy skills) in agricultural applications as a response to Perkins policy changes in the 1990s and 2000s. The National Council for Agricultural Education (NCAE) set forth a number of high-priority initiatives for reforms about 15 years ago, one of which was a rigorous curriculum with intentional quality professional development for teachers. CASE, originally managed by the NCAE, was the product to answer that initiative.”
“It (CASE) offers students another career and technical education pathway at the high school,” CCA Superintendent Tim Kuehl said. “It will also unveil all sorts of agricultural-related careers that students likely were not aware of previously. It also gives us another path to link with the community: businesses, farmers, etc.”
STEM was part of the reason Kinney and others advocated for agricultural education at CCA. “There is a common misconception that the only career within agriculture is being a farmer,” Kinney said. “Careers such as engineering, public relations, scientist, lawyer, manager and many others overlap with agriculture, and by having an FFA program in CCA, students will be exposed to these jobs and opportunities. Even in Iowa, people have grown away from the roots of Iowa agriculture and don’t have an understanding of where and how their food is produced.”
Scott Johnson, executive secretary for the Iowa FFA Association, agreed with the senator’s assessment. “ I often share that ag education includes a lot of applied science and applied math. Agriculture is STEM and STEM education continues to be an important focus in our school systems,” Johnson said. “The industry also recognizes the value of leadership development that FFA provides.”
Johnson said there is a high demand for students to enter the workforce that have a combination of technical knowledge and leadership development. “If school districts are truly focused on preparing college and career ready citizens for society, it’s hard to deny the value of ag education and FFA… and generally speaking, Career and Technical Education (CTE) and Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs). Ag ed is one of the service areas in CTE and FFA is one of the CTSO organizations in Iowa and the United States.”
Amelon will be teaching at the middle school and high school. “At the middle school level, I will be teaching an introductory class to educate the students about the basics of agriculture,” she said. “At the high school level, I will be teaching ANFR (Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources).” The ANFR class teaches students about the food system and how raw commodities are converted into products, which are used and consumed daily.
“Students will also learn about competencies in natural resources such as soil, water and air quality. Plant and animal science will be taught as well,” she said. These classes are detailed in their subject matter, starting from germination and conception to the final harvest product, Amelon noted.
Ag education and FFA programs are becoming more popular across the country, and “farm kids” are actually the minority, according to Johnson.
“Based on our FY17 annual report, 30.2 percent of ag education students in Iowa classified themselves as being from a farm. 48.5 percent indicated their residence as ‘town/city’ and 21.3 percent indicated they are from an acreage.” The National FFA Organization, Johnson said, reports some of the largest programs are located in major metropolitan areas like Chicago and Philadelphia.
“The number of FFA Chapters in Iowa has grown 10 percent in the last five years,” Johnson said. Over 15,000 Iowa high school students are members of 235 chapters across the state, making Iowa the 11th-largest FFA Association.
Johnson added he had recently fielded a question from another media partner asking about the value of “city kids” working with livestock, and what lessons are taught to students by doing that.
“Students that are fully engaged in the process learn animal husbandry, nutrition and health, growth and development, marketing, sales, general financial literacy, and a general knowledge about sources of food and quality assurance,” he said. Students also learn about the cycle of life: birth, death, sickness, injury, natural disaster. “I grew up on a dairy farm. As I’ve grown into this profession and work more and more with those who were not fortunate enough to have those experiences, I value where I came from even more. Life is not material, and experiences in production agriculture– particularly livestock and poultry– certainly put that into context at an early age.” However, he said, “I don’t know how in the world we are going to kick the ‘farm kid’ stereotype, but we’ll keep pushing.”

The FFA Creed

I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds - achievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturists; in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years.

I believe that to live and work on a good farm, or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuits, is pleasant as well as challenging; for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny.

I believe in leadership from ourselves and respect from others. I believe in my own ability to work efficiently and think clearly, with such knowledge and skill as I can secure, and in the ability of progressive agriculturists to serve our own and the public interest in producing and marketing the product of our toil.

I believe in less dependence on begging and more power in bargaining; in the life abundant and enough honest wealth to help make it so--for others as well as myself; in less need for charity and more of it when needed; in being happy myself and playing square with those whose happiness depends upon me.

I believe that American agriculture can and will hold true to the best traditions of our national life and that I can exert an influence in my home and community which will stand solid for my part in that inspiring task.