Each year, high school students from across the state travel to the University of Missouri to take part in the State FFA Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Career Development Events (CDEs). The MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) offers its expertise for these events, as faculty, staff and students lend a hand in setting up and running the competitive events.
CAFNR went the extra mile this year to host an in-person event, and worked to offer the same strong CDEs while also following health and safety protocols.
“These events offer great educational benefits to our agricultural education and leadership students,” said Bryan Garton, senior associate dean and director of academic programs. “CDEs are hands-on assessments, validated by agricultural industry experts, where secondary students compete against one another to demonstrate job-ready skills. CAFNR prepares agricultural education undergraduate students for this important role by assigning each student to serve as a contest student superintendent for the state CDE held each year on the MU campus. In this signature experience, undergraduate students learn the content and structure of CDEs by planning and preparing materials for their assigned CDE.”
CAFNR hosted the 17 CDEs over three Saturdays in April. While the events are typically held over the course of the Missouri state FFA convention, CAFNR followed the Mizzou COVID-19 event guidelines found in the Show Me Renewal Plan to protect the health and well-being of the individuals involved. Multiple spaces were used for the CDEs, including the renovated Trowbridge Event Center.
“Following the cancellation of the events in 2020, teachers worked with MU faculty and staff to conduct some events virtually,” Garton said. “These were not as successful due the hands-on nature of the skill and performance events. We were thrilled to be able to offer in-person events for the participants this year.”
The CDEs are an important learning tool for the high school student participants – and equally important for CAFNR undergraduates who participate. The events touch on service learning, a key part of the RISE Initiative, part of CAFNR’s Strategic Plan. The plan states that all CAFNR undergraduate students will take part in at least one signature experience while on campus: Research, International, Service Learning and Experiential Learning.
“I participated in several state FFA competitions at MU throughout high school,” said Audrey Martin, a senior in agricultural education. “Being on the other side is so much fun because you don’t have the nerves of a high schooler, but you still get to take in the competition, which for an CDE/LDE junkie like me is the best part. I got to see CDEs I had never competed in, so I gained a new appreciation for those events and gained some valuable skills for when I’m an ag teacher. I am so thankful I got to help out because I know how much these events mean to the students participating, and, therefore, having a role ensuring these events were possible was so rewarding.”
Martin helped with the poultry and agronomy CDEs, which were both events that were new to Martin. Martin said that seeing events that weren’t familiar to her was important as she goes into teaching.
“An in-person event was honestly so much more than I expected,” she said. “I am so thankful CAFNR worked their magic to allow it all to happen. I would only have one opportunity to see how these events work before I’m an ag teacher, and this was it. I gained so much valuable knowledge that I can take to the classroom next year because we got to have an in-person event. I know the high school students were thankful to be able to compete in a format that is not only familiar but most revealing of their abilities by having an in-person event. Truly, this was above and beyond what most of us had hoped state FFA CDEs would look like and we are so thankful for that!”
Grace Miller, who is also a senior in agricultural education, served as the student superintendent of the soils contest. In her role, she checked in student participants, helped run the contest and made sure all of the results were taken in to be scored.
Miller also participated in CDEs at Mizzou as a high school student, so being on the other side was a fun change of pace.
“Adaptation has been the name of the game the past year,” Miller said. “Again, a lot of planning and sweating and going back over COVID protocols and guidelines went into this year’s event. I feel the students really stepped up to the plate, masked-up, didn’t complain, were serious about their contests, and – I felt – looked excited to be on campus/in Columbia again. It has been a good thing!”
To go along with CAFNR students gaining valuable service learning experience, the CDEs offer the College an opportunity to recruit future Tigers.
“CDEs are an important recruitment tool for CAFNR and Mizzou,” Garton said. “Prospective students, teachers, parents and communities from across Missouri celebrate competing in the state CDE at Mizzou as a great honor and tradition. CDEs provide an opportunity for the agriculture teacher, a trusted mentor, to bring prospective students to our campus. Agriculture teachers, many who are Mizzou alumni, take pride in showcasing the entire campus through informal tours and visits. For students from rural parts of Missouri, these informal visits make the size of MU seem less daunting and more familiar, allowing students to see themselves as future Tigers.”