Brittany Elmquist is the ag education teacher and FFA sponsor at Audubon Community High School in western Iowa. She has spent 19 years in ag education with the last 11 in Audubon. Elmquist is a graduate of Iowa State University with a degree in agricultural education.
She and her husband Joe have three children — Lane, Leyton and Rees.
IFT: What made you want to teach ag education?
ELMQUIST: I became an ag teacher because of the experience I had in high school. I had a wonderful teacher that taught all his students about the importance of agriculture and got students excited about everything from plant and animal production to welding and natural resources. Becoming a teacher and advocating for agriculture was something I was passionate about and truly enjoyed. My grandfather taught vo-ag for many years and had a wonderful life.
IFT: Talk a bit about your FFA chapter at Audubon. What are some of the activities you do? Is membership growing?
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ELMQUIST: The Audubon FFA chapter is very active. We have consistently had between 115 and 125 members for the past several years. That makes over half of the student body involved in agricultural education and FFA.
The Audubon FFA chapter participates in many activities throughout the year. We give back to our community through a Harvest Appreciation for area farms, participating in Adopt-A-Family at Christmas, and volunteering for various community events as they arise. Our chapter hosts a pig and cattle show each year with proceeds going to better our fairgrounds. Students are active with Career Development events ranging from Soil to Poultry Judging and from Parliamentary Procedure to Job Interview.
The chapter has formed a relationship with Go-Serv Global, sponsors an orphan from Haiti and has taken members to the country to build Sukup Safe-T Homes and assist with agricultural projects. Every year the chapter hosts a school-wide meal packaging event for Meals from the Heartland, allowing our school to have packaged over 100,000 meals for those in need. Our chapter banquet is a highlight of the year for our members and community as we recognize the successes of our members and those that make it possible.
IFT: How has teaching agriculture changed during your career?
ELMQUIST: Agriculture has to change to keep up with the demands of a growing population. However, the foundation remains the same. Agriculture education still teaches that foundation, but now has to expand to the careers that will get production agriculture to the next level — biotechnology, environmental service, food products and processing, to name a few.
IFT: There are many careers linked to agriculture. What career choices seem to be most appealing to your students?
ELMQUIST: Many of my students are continuing their education in the business field. Some will go back to the family farm and many into animal science careers. While there is a broad range of career focus areas students are choosing, they are still in the industry of agriculture. The most appealing careers are in agribusiness, animal science and power, structural and technical systems.
IFT: Are non-farm students interested in a career in production agriculture?
ELMQUIST: Non-farm students are interested in production agriculture through those careers that support it. They want to be engineers who design equipment and buildings, making them more efficient for agricultural producers. Students want to be the technicians making systems that operate farms in all aspects, and they could be the economist that advises producers on what to do with their commodities or the ones making sure the supply chain keeps moving.
IFT: As you look ahead, how do you see the ag education program evolving to meet the changes in agriculture?
ELMQUIST: Agricultural education will need to continue to focus on the three-circle model of ag ed, FFA, and SAE (Supervised Agricultural Experience). The SAE piece is critical to keep up with the changes in agriculture. Students with SAE projects are working right alongside the experts in our community and gain hands-on experience in their chosen SAE area.
Ag education programs will need the support of their communities to help provide students with the tools needed to be successful.
IFT: What do you enjoy the most about your students and program?
ELMQUIST: I enjoy making connections with youth in leadership and agriculture. The program in Audubon extends beyond the school. I am very proud of the community involvement that has been built in Audubon. Students have successful SAE projects because of the people and businesses in Audubon. They are invaluable resources when preparing for career development events.
Every year tours are provided to students at our vet clinic, welding shops, manufacturers, implement dealers, winery, grain/livestock farms, feedlots, soil conservation sites, seed and fertilizer/chemical dealers, and so many more. Our community assists in taking what is taught in the classroom and expanding it to the next level, with hands-on application. Their support is greatly appreciated. Our chapter is also fortunate to have an alumni chapter that provides our program the tools to build a strong ag foundation.