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AgVenture: Sourcing Ag Careers

Grade Levels

6 - 8

Purpose

Students consider the scope of agriculture and how it is the source of most of our day-to-day necessities in preparation to explore the five agricultural career pathways.

Estimated Time

Two or three 45-minute sessions

Materials Needed

Activity 1

  • Pictures of Common Products, printed, cut apart, and laminated*
  • Four containers (e.g., tubs, boxes, or bags) labeled “Store,” “Factory,” “Farm,” and “Natural Resources”*
  • Source Search Item Reference List

*Prepared cards, containers, and labels are included in the Source Search kit, which is available for purchase from agclassroomstore.com.

Activity 2

Activity 3 

  • Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources Pathway cards, 1 set printed 

Vocabulary Word

career: an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person's life and with opportunities for progress

Did You Know? (Ag Facts)

  • Between 2015 and 2020, there are expected to be 57,900 average annual openings for graduates with bachelor’s or higher degrees in the areas of food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, and the environment.1
  • It is projected that almost half of the career opportunities will be in management and business.1
  • 27% of careers will be in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).1
  • Jobs in sustainable food and biomaterials production will make up 15%, while 12% of the openings will be in education, communication, and governmental services.1

Background Agricultural Connections

Many people have the misconception that farms simply provide us with raw produce and other foods. In reality, agriculture also provides us with a wide variety of raw materials from which we are able to make clothes, books, cosmetics, medicines, sports equipment, and much more. Students may not realize that the items they use every day come from resources that are found in the environment. These resources are either extracted from the natural world through industries such as mining, or they are used in agricultural production. Most students don’t recognize the origins of the products, and they think of the sources of these products as factories or stores. It is important for students to understand that before an item ever enters a factory or store, it began as a resource or product of the natural world.

What is agriculture? Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary states that it is “the science, art, or practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock and in varying degrees the preparation and marketing of the resulting products.” Although accurate, this definition does not capture the scope of career opportunities related to this “science, art, or practice.” Goods produced on farms must be processed and made available to consumers. This processing links farm production to fork consumption, fabric fashion, home construction, and transportation as well as creating numerous by-products that are used in manufacturing (e.g. plant and animal products used in paint, adhesives, medicine, paper, batteries, etc.) The Merriam-Webster’s definition provides only a limited glimpse into the number of careers that support farm production.

During the next five years, US college graduates will find good employment opportunities if they have expertise in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, or the environment. Between 2015 and 2020, there are expected to be 57,900 average annual openings for graduates with bachelor’s or higher degrees in those areas. Almost half of the opportunities will be in management and business. Another 27% will be in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Jobs in sustainable food and biomaterials production will make up 15%, while 12% of the openings will be in education, communication, and governmental services. These projections are based on data from several sources. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a 10.8% increase in the US labor force between 2012 and 2022 due to job growth and openings from retirement or other replacements. Employment opportunities in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, and environment occupations are expected to grow more than 5% between 2015 and 2020 for college graduates with bachelor’s or higher degrees.1

Agriculture is a big “career umbrella.” While an agricultural career may not involve working directly on a farm, the “fruits of your labor” may be linked to farm production though the processing and manufacturing of farmed goods and provided services. The agricultural sector of our economy is made up of people who help us all to meet our basic needs. Is it possible to have an ag-less day? No! And with global populations growing, agriculture will need critical thinkers and problem solvers who can help people to meet their basic needs with limited resources. Agriculture is science-based, high-tech, and offers a variety of career possibilities, many of which will be explored in this lesson. 

Interest Approach - Engagement

  1. Begin a discussion with your students to evaluate their prior knowledge of agriculture and its role in their life. Ask students questions such as:
    • “What is the impact of agriculture on your everyday life?”
    • “What would happen if there were no farmers or ranchers?”
    • “What careers do you think support the ability of farmers and ranchers to produce food, clothing, and shelter?”

Procedures

Preparation

  1. Cut out the Pictures of Common Products (there are 40). Randomly divide the pictures into two groups. Use two colors of poster board (or card stock) and glue the pictures onto the poster board. Cut out the poster board around the pictures leaving a ¼ - ½ inch border. Laminate the pictures for future use. 
  2. Obtain four containers (boxes, plastic tubs or paper grocery bags) and label each with one of the following: “Store,” “Factory,” “Farms” and “Natural Resources.” 
  3. Identify a location for a relay race outside, in a wide hallway, or in a gymnasium. 

Activity 1: Source Search

  1. Inform students that they will be participating in an activity to learn about the sources of many day-to-day items. This activity will help answer the questions posed in the Interest Approach.
  2. Divide the class into two teams. Divide the laminated pictures by color. You should have 20 pictures in each pile. If you are using red and blue index cards, you will have a red and blue team.
  3. Take the students to the location of the relay race and place each team in a single file line. Be sure to have all the pictures face down in front of the first person in each line. Locate the tubs 20-50 feet away from the lines.
  4. Give students the following instructions: "This is the source relay. Your job is to place each card in the tub representing the original source of the everyday item that is pictured. When you are at the front of the line, pick up a card, look at the picture, then run to and place the picture in the correct tub based on the product’s “source”– either “Stores,” “Factories,” “Natural Resources,” or “Farms.” Keep in mind that you are looking at the product, not the packaging. The next person in line goes when the person in front of them returns and crosses over the start line or hand-tags them. The returning player should go to the end of the line."
  5. Ask students if they have any questions and clarify as needed. Begin the relay race and continue until all of the pictures have been sorted. The first team to finish the sort wins temporarily, but the ultimate winner will be determined by accuracy.
  6. After the relay is over and the pictures are sorted, return to the classroom or have the students gather around you in a suitable location to go through the cards and discuss the correct answers. As you hold up each picture, the students can show whether they agree or disagree with the sort using the "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" signal, or another response as chosen. Use the attached Source Search Items Reference List for the correct answers and explanations for each card. If you choose to keep score to identify a winner, have a student keep a tally for each team of the cards placed in the correct box.
    • Farms: Explain that if the item contains ingredients or raw products from a farm, the item is in the correct box. Examples would be any food items such as cereal, cookies, and milk, or any clothing item made from a natural fiber such as cotton (jeans) or wool (coat). Some items from a farm that are not eaten or worn include paint (this contains linseed or soybean oil) or fuel such as ethanol. 
      • Note: After most relays, the “Farms” container will typically have only a few items in it.
    • Natural Resources: Explain that items in this tub should be products we get from the ocean, from plants or animals that occur naturally without management from humans, or from mining. Examples of items that should be in this box are: fish or shrimp (wild; however, note that fish and shrimp can also be farmed), cars, salt, water, plastic (plastic starts as oil, which is mined), synthetic fabrics (polyester, petroleum or oil products), computers, cell phones, and any metallic items. Wood products may be in this box, but many wood products come from timber grown on farms. Let the class decide how to divide these. You might decide to “split the difference;” put one (the fish) into the “Farms” box and the wood into the “Natural Resources” box. Remind your students that this is the “source” search. What is the “real” source of the things we use every day? Nearly all are grown or mined – farmed or extracted from the natural world.
      • Note: This tub is also likely to only have a few items inside.
    • Factories: Explain that a factory is a place where raw ingredients are changed into the useful items we need or want; wood into furniture, ore into steel for cars, wheat into bread, and potatoes into chips. A factory assembles items to later be sold in a distribution center or store. With this information ask students, "Are there any items that can originally be sourced to a factory?" (No.) Proceed by sorting every card in the “Factories” box into either the “Farms” or “Natural Resources” container. After doing this, your students should understand that all originally sourced products have either been grown or mined.
    • Stores: Move to the box labeled "Stores." After receiving the explanation about factories, check for understanding by asking, "What type of things can be sourced to a store?" Students should realize that, like the “Factories” container, nothing should be in the “Stores” container; this is just where we purchase the items, it is not their original source. Clarify that factories and stores rely on raw ingredients from the farm and natural world. Every picture or product should now be in either the “Farms” or “Natural Resources” container.
  7. To increase the level of understanding, ask students, "What natural resources do farms need in order to produce the products used to make all of these items?" (Soil, water, light, and air are natural resources that farmers rely on.) To illustrate, place the “Farms” box inside the “Natural Resources” box.

Activity 2

  1. Divide the class into groups of three or four and provide each group with online access to the Get Your Money Where Your Mouth Is Prezi presentation. 
  2. Ask each group to select one of the images from the “farm” tub from Activity 1 (Source Search). 
  3. Ask someone from each group to read a paragraph of the article aloud until the entire article has been read.
  4. Explain that this article is designed to entice students to consider agricultural careers and focuses on science-related careers. Explain to the students that the careers are underlined and each have a focus that is explained in the article. As students read, they will find six agricultural pathways.
  5. To check reading comprehension, use questioning techniques to ensure the content of each paragraph is being understood by the students.  
  6. Show students the bread example of the Ag Career Graphic Organizer (image attached, may be copied and pasted into a PowerPoint slide), and explain how each of the noted careers is associated to the farm-to-fork process of their farm product. 
  7. Provide each group with a blank Ag Career Graphic Organizer activity sheet and ask them to use the product they have selected and what they learned from the article to fill in the organizer. Tell the students that they will need to be able to explain why each career they add is part of the process (assessment). 

Activity 3 

  1. Hang up the set of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources Pathway cards on the board. 
  2. Explain to students that there are various "career clusters" including Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources. This career cluster focuses on preparing students for employment in careers that relate to the production, processing, marketing, distribution, financing, and development of agricultural commodities and resources. Just like the products from Source Search in Activity 1, these commodities and resources include food, fiber, wood products, natural resources, horticulture, and other plant and animal products/resources. 
  3. Refer to each of the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources Pathway cards hanging on the board and discuss each pathway with students. 
    • Agricultural Mechanics Systems
    • Agricultural Production Systems
    • Animal and Veterinary Science
    • Food Science, Dietetics, and Nutrition
    • Natural Resource Science
    • Plant Science 
  4. Ask each of the groups to refer back to their Ag Career Graphic Organizer. What product did they highlight from Source Search and what careers did they come up with? 
  5. Instruct the groups to look at each of the careers they came up with and determine which pathway that career belongs in. 
  6. Allow one person from each group to write their careers on the board below the correct pathway card. 
    • Note: You may want to assign each group a different colored marker so each of the careers can be differentiated. 
  7. Ask each group to share their completed graphic organizer and careers with the rest of the class. Discuss at least three of the careers they added to the board and why.
  8. Discuss each of the pathways with students and careers. Consider asking the following questions to lead a class discussion:
    • Ask students to reflect on the Get Your Money Where Your Mouth Is Prezi presentation. Why are so many careers tied to agriculture, food, and natural resources? 
    • Which careers are directly related to science? 
    • Which careers are related to business and marketing? 
    • Which careers involve knowledge and skills related to nutrition? 
    • What would happen if there was a shortage of workers in a specific career? 
  9. Wrap up the lesson by asking students to reflect back on each of the activities. (Source Search, Ag Careers Graphic Organizer, and the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources Pathways.
    • How do each of these activities relate? 
    • Why are each of the pathways in Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources so important? 
    • Have any students realized that their "dream job" or career choice is tied to agriculture? 

Concept Elaboration and Evaluation

After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:

  • Natural resources and farms (which also rely on natural resources) are the source for everything that we use and eat.
  • Careers in production agriculture include farmers and ranchers. Typically these careers are directly involved with the growing of crops or the raising of animals.
  • In addition to production agriculture there are many careers in fields related to agriculture such as business, science, nutrition, and more.

Important
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!

 

Sources

  1. Goecker, A.D., Smith, E., Fernandez, J. M., Ali, R., & Theller, R. G. (2015). Employment opportunities for college graduates in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, and the environment, United States, 2015-2020. Retrieved from https://www.purdue.edu/usda/employment/

Author

Debra Spielmaker

Organization Affiliation

Utah Agriculture in the Classroom