Connecting Gate to Plate Blog

Agvocating from a FFA Advisor’s Perspective


When I first joined Facebook and Twitter it was because it was the “cool” thing to do.  I really had no idea what I was getting into. Twitter at first seemed to just be like Facebook’s status updates.  I signed up and then went 5-6 months without really using or checking it at all, but then I saw that one of my fraternity brothers was involved with this #AgChat thing and decided to give it another try.  In those first couple #AgChats that I participated in, I was amazed. Since that time, I have been hooked.

I’m proud to say that many people in the #AgChat community my  friends.  I think we all feel this way – especially when it comes to agvocating.  We are all there for one another as we try to relay the voice of true agriculture to others,. I know this gives me more confidence to speak out and share my story without worrying about interactions with people who challenge what I do or telling me how agriculture is wrong. When any one of us is getting “attacked” by someone, the #AgChat community will come and help you stand your ground.  This is what makes our community stronger every day.

Drew Bender is a second year Agricultural Education instructor in Zanesville, OH. He also helps out on the family farm in Marion, Ohio with crop (soybeans, corn, and wheat) and livestock (market hogs and poultry) enterprises.

Being an Agricultural Education Instructor, I feel like I have to constantly be an advocate for my teaching profession.  I not only need to be an advocate for agriculture but also for education and the need to teach kids about agriculture. When I tell my story and let my voice truly be heard, it is not only through the use of social media but mainly in my classroom through our daily lessons.

Unfortunately, Agricultural Education programs seem to be challenged every year. There’s on ongoing question of need and review of effectiveness of the programs in schools.  Many programs are discontinued because of schools are no longer able to fund the programs. Other programs are discontinued because they lose the local community support.  Many people who have not been in an Agricultural Education program do not understand how  teachers put our heart and soul into our programs.

Our school day very often goes beyond the closing bell.  We also incorporate an amazing student organization called the National FFA Organization, which provides many different opportunities for our students to get involved. From school trips to Indianapolis, IN for the National FFA Convention  or to Washington D.C. for Washington Leadership Conference to competition opportunities for Agriscience Fair and Career Development Events, such as parliamentary procedure. There is a chance to involve for every student.

Teachers are in charge of students during these opportunities and encourage them to excel.  One way I have advocated for the Agricultural Education profession is joining with teachers from all over Ohio for our blog called The Wise Owls – Tales from an Ag Ed classroom. This blog gives our side of the story about our profession and offer tips for teachers.

FFA & Agriculture Education

Other than blogging, Twitter has been my main social media tool of choice. By participating in #AgChat, #EdChat, and #AgEduChat, I have built a great Professional Learning Network (PLN) of farmers, agribusiness people, scientists, other educators and many others.  While monitoring my Twitter feeds, I am able to take real-world examples and resources to use in my classroom.  I have encouraged many of my students to use social media, using agvocacy as an example for a reason why.

Using the social media tools has changed my life and my teaching dramatically and it can do the same for yours too. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and join a chat community. They will welcome you with open arms.

Drew has served as a volunteer on the AgChat Foundation training committee and was a key part of the logistics for the  inaugural AgChat Foundation Training Conference. He has since founded #AgEduChat along with Amanda Sollman for discussions about Agricultural Education/FFA Programs. Anyone is welcome to join the discussions on Sunday nights 7-8:30 p.m. EST.  You can find Drew on Twitter and Facebook.

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