Rural Missouri - January 2015 - 5

RM

| PERSPECTIVES

H A RT TO H E A RT

My other family
by Barry Hart | bhart@amec.coop

F

amily has always been important to me. I
come from the sort of family where we shared
all of the joys, celebrations and triumphs. We
were also there when the chips were down,
mourning deaths of loved ones, praying for the sick
and trying to lift up those in need.
In 2014, my family grew thanks to the birth of
my first grandchild, Eva Grace, who was born to
Ryan and Sarah Hart. Being a grandpa has given
me an opportunity to reflect on how important it is
to have a large family you can count on.
When a new baby comes into the world, family
members turn out in force to clean the house, set
up the nursery and to make sure the new parents
have everything they need.
Like many of you, I have experienced the death of
a loved one. That's another time when family rallies
together with the comfort that can only come from
someone who shares your grief.
I was fortunate to work with some of the pioneers
of the rural electric program at an early age. These
tough old birds introduced me to a new family, one
I still take pride in belonging to.
I'm talking about the electric cooperative family.
Longtime readers of this column have seen me refer
to this family many times.
Over the years, I've learned that there are many
more connections between an electric cooperative
and its members than just that meter on the side of
a house.
This cooperative family functions much like the
family into which I was born. For example, I've seen
the family come together during a disaster such as
when an ice storm hits Missouri.
It's easy to feel alone when the lines are down
and no one has electricity. But in the cooperative
world, there's always people who are ready - at a

moment's notice - to drop everything and lend a
hand until every meter is turning once again.
In the past year, Rural Missouri has featured several electric cooperative employees who used their
first-aid training to rescue members of the community. In December, you read about two directors
who are deeply involved with a group whose sole
purpose is to help those in need.
As this issue is being prepared, electric co-ops
around the state are collecting toys to give to kids in
their service areas who otherwise might have nothing under the tree on Christmas. Other times of the
year, I see them packing food into backpacks to feed
hungry kids who live in homes where there is nothing to eat.
Electric cooperatives are so tied into the community that they take this concept of family seriously.
I want the world to be a better place to live for little
Eva Grace Hart. So, too, does your electric cooperative. Its concern for community goes far beyond
supplying electricity, important as that is.
You will find electric cooperatives
involved in creating new jobs, helping
businesses lower energy costs and
working to build essential services
such as sewage treatment, water and
emergency services and health care.
When you go to church with someone, know their kids and see them
at 4-H meetings, it's easy to tell when
someone is struggling.
I've seen directors and employees alike
dig deep in their pockets when the word
gets out that a neighbor needs help.
Operation Round-Up programs turn
pennies into dollars and channel these
funds to worthy community projects.
This cooperative family works both
ways. From time to time, word goes out

from the cooperative that it needs help from the
family. No better example of this can be found than
the recent "Stop EPA" campaign in 2014.
When your co-op asked for help in telling the Environmental Protection Agency that rural people can't
afford to pay higher bills, you answered the call just
like any good family member would, with more than
305,000 messages sent to EPA from Missouri.
Thanks so much for your support. Cooperatives by their very nature must have their members behind them. Together, we can achieve great
things.
Hart is the executive vice
president of the Association of Missouri Electric
Cooperatives.

GUEST COLUMN

Agriculture education fills the void
by Jon Wilson | info@ruralmissouri.coop

provided federal funding to support the training of
those who planned to enter into farm labor. This
issouri's landscape is dotted with 99,171 act opened the door for vocational training, allowing
farms totaling more than 28.2 million schools to employ teachers who taught skills needacres. These farms are a vital part of the ed for day-to-day operation of the family farm.
Today, Missouri agriculture educastate's economy, providtion continues with the goal of providing quality agriculture products that
ing experiential learning to students in
rank us among the highest produca variety of agriculture settings. With a
ing states. Though farming is a qualtotal of 339 agriculture education proity way of life, an interesting statistic
grams statewide and more than 27,000
can be found in data from the 2010
students, Missouri agriculture educaNational Agriculture Statistic Service.
tors are doing their best to fill the void
The average age of farmers is on the
created by the retiring farmer.
rise, from 51 years old in 1982 to 58.3
In the 2011 school year, 5,127
years of age in 2012.
agriculture education students graduA dissection of the agriculture cenated from school districts across the
sus revealed that from 2002 to 2007,
state. Of this number, 93 percent were
the under-45 farmer demographic
employed or continuing their educadecreased by 14 percent while the
tion with 52 percent pursuing a career
45 to 64 group, by far the largest,
Jon Wilson
in some form of agriculture.
increased by 13 percent. Regardless
All students who enroll in agriculof the reasons behind this trend, one
thing is evident: The average Missouri farmer is get- ture education are offered courses in six different
ting older. This leads one to ask a simple question. pathways. These pathways include agriculture business management systems, agriculture mechanics
Who will replace our retiring farmers?
Agriculture education entered the public setting and technology, animal science, food science, natuin 1917 with the passage of the Smith-Hughes Act, ral resources and plant science. By exploring indiwhich promoted vocational agriculture training and vidual interests, students are able to sample areas

M

of agriculture and diversify their knowledge, resulting in a well-rounded education that can be implemented on the farm or in the workplace.
Agriculture education provides a hands-on
approach to education for students enrolled in the
program. Experiential learning takes place, providing students with practical experiences they can
use immediately in the workplace or on the farm.
These experiences are valuable tools that help
students solve realistic problems in an educational
setting. Along with learning technical skills, students are provided opportunities to develop employability skills, focusing on leadership and personal
development. Beyond the classroom instruction
and experiential learning components, this area of
the three-circle model provides students with the
skills necessary to gain employment or operate their
own business.
It is alarming that the current age of the Missouri farmer is increasing, but with Missouri's agriculture education programs and the Missouri FFA,
individuals are being trained to replace them. The
FFA advisers across our state are doing their best
to provide quality, experienced students to fill the
future void created by the retiring farmer.
Wilson teaches agriculture in the Gainesville R-V
School District.
JANUARY 2015 | RURALMISSOURI.COOP

5


http://www.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Rural Missouri - January 2015

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - January 2015

Contents
Rural Missouri - January 2015 - Intro
Rural Missouri - January 2015 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - January 2015 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - January 2015 - Contents
Rural Missouri - January 2015 - 4
Rural Missouri - January 2015 - 5
Rural Missouri - January 2015 - 6
Rural Missouri - January 2015 - 7
Rural Missouri - January 2015 - 8
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Rural Missouri - January 2015 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - January 2015 - Cover4
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