Back to school

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School is back in session in the Ozarks, and kids and parents are getting back into the swing of things. I enjoy seeing the photos on social media of those bright, shining faces as they head off to another school year. 

My favorite back-to-school memory happened long after I walked the halls of the Dallas County R-1 School District. 

One morning, I walked across the road to feed some calves. As I waited for traffic to pass by to head back to the house, I saw a school bus approaching. I didn’t realize it was the first day of school. I was standing in the same spot my brothers and I did as kids to climb onto the bus. Oh the memories. Then I saw the flashing lights of the bus come on. I didn’t think any kids lived close by, but I looked around and asked myself if someone new had moved in, but I didn’t see anyone making their way to the bus stop. The bus stopped right in front of me, the stop sign went out, and the doors flew open. I again looked around for school-aged kids. Maybe kids walking up the gravel road, or maybe my older neighbors were watching their grandkids before school. Nope, it was just me, my calf bottle and feed buckets. 

“I think I might be a little old to ride the bus,” I told the driver as I stepped toward the open door. 

“Oh, Julie!” the driver said with a laugh. She slammed the bus doors shut and drove away. 

While not my bus driver in school, Ann had driven that road for decades. She took it seriously when the district told drivers to pick up anyone they saw standing alongside the road on the first day. All these years later, I still chuckle at it the memory. 

Kids today learn more than the “Three Rs” in our schools. Young people can come out of high school with college credits and jump right into their advanced classes or have a technical certification that helps them go to work. There are tons of technological advances and other opportunities that just weren’t there before. 

Unfortunately, I feel one critical area in our education system keeps getting the short end of the stick — agriculture education. 

There are many excellent agriculture education programs in the Ozarks and top-notch teachers leading them. Still, many of programs are on the bottom rung of the ladder regarding funding. Some districts have also considered cutting agriculture from the district curriculum. 

It’s essential to let school administrators and school boards know agriculture education is important. Even if there isn’t an agriculture department in the school, teachers should be encouraged to include agriculture in their lessons. 

Wouldn’t it be amazing classes could grow some of the vegetables needed for student lunches outside their classroom windows? The possibilities for agriculture education are tremendous in every school.

Food insecurity is a big issue these days, and the best way to battle the problem is to show young people where their food comes from and teach them how to produce it. 

I encourage everyone to take an interest in their local agriculture education program.  Become an advocate of ag education in your community by supporting 4-H and FFA. It’s the only way we can ensure agriculture education will continue. 

We have to believe in the future of agriculture and stress that everyone needs a farmer everyday, three times a day.

Julie Turner-Crawford is a native of Dallas County, Mo., where she grew up on her family’s farm. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Julie, call 1-866-532-1960 or by email at [email protected]

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