Paw Paw students learn the impact agriculture has locally and around the world

Education Matters

PAW PAW, Ill. (WTVO) — Students at a Lee County Middle School are learning about agriculture from an expert in the field.

Jeff Svendsen is an agriculture teacher at Paw Paw Junior High.

He’s more than qualified for the position, with plenty of practical experience.

Svendsen has a degree in Agribusiness, and has worked in the grain industry for 30 years.

“We farm about 13,000 acres of corn and soybeans,” Svendsen said. “And then we feed out about 20 head of cattle that I sell locally.”

Svendsen or Mr. Jeff, to his students, was certified to teach agriculture in order to keep the high school from losing it’s FFA program.

He believes all kids should learn about the diverse field.

“There are so many opportunities available to the students as they grow up,” Svendsen said. “I mean it ranges, not only from farmers, but we need chemists, you need salesman, all those different types of jobs.”

Katie Pratt is the Literacy Coordinator for Lee County Agriculture in the Classroom. She shares the same passion for agriculture as Svendsen.

Many of the students in Lee County live in rural America. Pratt wants them to appreciate the world around them.

“They go to school in small towns and they’re surrounded by corn fields and bean fields and cattle and pigs, learn about that,” Pratt said. “Understand why it’s important to our communities and then at the same time why it’s important to our economy and our world, and how that’s where your food comes from. Your fiber and your fuel and you’re feed.”

Svendsen’s students are starting small, learning what it takes to grow plants.

“I’m growing some types of flowers. Some types of vegetables, watermelon and cat grass,” said fifth grader Kylee Cooper.

Fifth grader Brie Clayton said “I planted a few flowers, a sensitive plant and like tomatoes. I just thought that they were kinda cool and I could experiment how they grow.”

Students say they’re learning about the vital role farmers play.

“I think it’s very important what they do. Why? because if they didn’t farm, we wouldn’t have corn, we wouldn’t have wheat and we wouldn’t have soybeans,” said fifth grader Tori Fox.

Having an actual farmer teaching agriculture offers a great advantage to students.

“I give them the antidotes and what not’s of what happens on the farm, what really happens,” Svendsen said.

Experts say increasing agriculture education in the classroom will help meet the shortage of students in pursuing college agricultural degrees. Necessary to meet the demands of the agribusiness industry.

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