SNOHOMISH — She’s finding ways to keep agriculture teachers from burning out.
Tracy Brown, an educator at Snohomish High School, was among 19 instructors from across the country chosen to go to New Orleans in November. The group worked come up with solutions to common problems that cause agriculture teachers to leave the job.
All educators, especially those who teach agriculture, are being asked to do more with less, Brown said. That leaves little time for anything else.
They are tasked with opening students’ eyes to the wide variety of careers in the industry. That’s important because more farmers are needed to feed the world’s growing population as resources and the amount of land available to produce crops dwindles, she said.
“We all just want to do everything for kids,” Brown said. “We have to look at what we’re doing and what benefits kids most.”
The National Association of Agricultural Educators program taught her to limit projects she takes on to those that are most meaningful for students. Brown learned to “juggle elephants” by balancing her job with her personal life.
“If you’re the ringleader of a circus, you have a professional ring, a personal or self ring and a relationships ring,” she explained. “You have to give each one its own attention or your elephants are going to fall.”
To free some of her time in the classroom, she’s enlisted the help of people in the community. She made how-to sheets for some of the tasks she used to walk though with students in Future Farmers of America.
Brown has her sights set on helping kids connect with where their food comes from. She wants them to see opportunities in agriculture even if they don’t think it suits their interests.
For example, she had a student who wanted a career in fashion, not farming. So Brown had her do a project about how textiles are produced.
Another student was interested in dirt bikes. Brown had him study how outdoor recreation affects the environment and the management of natural resources.
Students who were into photography were asked to promote agritourism and the history of Snohomish dairy farms by making a calendar.
Brown also teaches agricultural sciences, including how selective breeding and genetically modified crops have allowed farmers to increase production with fewer resources.
This year, she plans to have students take on sustainable-agriculture projects to showcase at the school’s annual plant sale. They’re learning to grow their own food in a greenhouse and come up with alternatives, such as producing crops in a roof-top garden.
“Our back yard farms are going to be just as important as big farms as our land decreases,” Brown said. “If you talk about agriculture, people immediately think of a farmer in overalls but it’s so much more than that.”