Those qualities all students should possess

Anytime you need just a dash or a full heap of inspiration, just find a local FFA chapter and spend some time in observation. I was very fortunate to participate in the 93rd annual North Dakota State FFA Convention, in Fargo, and these 1,500 kids wearing the blue and gold inspired in a big way.

Kudos to the North Dakota FFA Foundation and North Dakota FFA Association for challenging and providing a great space for these young leaders to excel. It is about giving space but also being there to create opportunities for success and failure.

While we come together to recognize the “winners” at state conventions, we all know the greatest lessons come to those who did not pull off the victory but learned some problem solving skills in the process. The troubling part of this event was that I still had a few people expressing that their school board was struggling to keep vocational instruction, even in rural schools. At a time when skilled labor is needed like never before, vocational instruction should be a priority and not on the chopping block.

School board members need to see the big picture and recognize that removing the teacher’s ability to teach and forcing them to focus on some standard is the ruination of the future for our productive nation. Our public school systems are loaded with great individuals and great teachers. We need to be the barrier that prevents them from being bogged down with bureaucracy and then empower them to teach life skills that benefit the youth and the future.

I suggest it is time that we turn the clock back on the core requirements in schools. We need home economics, personal finance, and life skills in the classroom. We need to teach valuable lessons that include food preservation, animal harvest, proper cooking, and the importance of family values. As a kid I remember the sound of the pressure cooker on Mom’s stove. Little did we realize that was a huge part of our independence. A nation that cannot feed itself is vulnerable and quite frankly that extends to the family as well. When basic knowledge and skills of survival erode, people will find themselves without a reliable food supply.

That is why we should be teaching ag classes to students and the basics of the origins of food production and preservation must come back into the core curriculum of education. I remember speaking in a high school in Modesto, California, years ago and the teacher was showing kids how to extract DNA from a strawberry. After the class she shared with me her concern that “we teach these kids about DNA, but most of them don’t know where babies come from.”

Ironic or not, I am writing this column on the day of the June full moon which is called the Strawberry Moon. The name dates back to the fact that the Northeastern American Indians knew that this full moon was a sign that strawberries were ready to be harvested. It is also a symbol that the year’s harvest is about to begin. The fact that there is a “harvest season” and food cannot be harvested 52 weeks a year, unlike stopping by the local grocery store, is a life lesson in itself.

I will have the same advice I have each week: These initiatives are up to us. We need to encourage superintendents and school board members to prepare these students for the future in the skills and knowledge they need for life.

As a refresher, this is why we are here, from the FFA opening ceremony:

“To practice brotherhood, honor agricultural opportunities and responsibilities and develop those qualities of leadership which an FFA member should possess.”

Editor’s note: The views expressed here are the author’s own and do not represent the views of High Plains Journal. Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at, or email Trent at [email protected].