AgProud: Illinois Agriculture Education


It’s National Teach Ag Day, and here’s my second Agriculture Educator sharing why she is Agriculture Proud. Kathy Novotney is an Illinois educator. Have you thanked and Ag teacher today? This is part of my month-long series highlighting the diversity of Agriculture. Are YOU Agriculture Proud?

Growing with two parents as teachers, high school math and middle school Physical Education, its very difficult for most to understand why I chose to become and agriculture educator. My path to this career is simple to me. I always loved being outdoors, working in the garden, and learning something new everyday that could actually be applied to my life. Naturally, when high school started, and I was signing up for classes, God stepped in and had my high school agriculture teacher, FFA Advisor (and now long time friend) as my mentor to set up classes. My father was completely bewildered that I’d ever want to learn about “farming and cows,” but I had a genuine interest. I can honestly say that was one of the most pivotal moments of my life, choosing to be in agriculture and joining the FFA.

From that moment, I knew my future was somewhere in agriculture, where exactly I wasn’t sure. My entire high school career led me down several agricultural career paths, from agricultural communications, production agriculture, and especially horticulture. As a senior in high school I chose the University of Illinois to further my education, selecting agricultural communications as my concentration. Little did I know what was in store for me, and through several agricultural communications internships and jobs, I found that my future didn’t seem to fit. I decided to switch my major to what I felt I was truly missing- working with FFA members and youth in agriculture. Agriculture education was the concentration I chose and graduated with, focusing on Teacher Certification. It was not until I student taught at an amazing agriculture education program in south Central Illinois, that I truly knew I wanted to be an agriculture teacher. Two weeks in, I was certain this was the career for me.

Yes, I often have struggles, managing all the different activities of an FFA Chapter and teaching 6 different agriculture classes each day, but I often find the variety and the time commitment very rewarding. A perfect example being earlier this week in my Orientation to Agriculture class, full of mainly freshmen and sophomore students. One of my freshmen girls raised her hand and said her mom had told her the day before that best beef comes from a 4-5 year old cow. Now, I don’t know about you, but I would not want to eat that meat. The student laughed as she was telling me and said, “Miss Novotney, can you please call my mom and tell her what you have been teaching us in the Beef Unit because she doesn’t believe me?!” I laughed and told her she did the right thing, but also showed her some resources she could show her mom to help her become a more educated consumer.

As an agriculture teacher, and as a person, my general hope is to spread some basic knowledge of agriculture to the public, in hopes that they will become more educated consumers. I don’t want anyone to become a master in meat judging, but if they take that upon themselves as a goal, I will certainly aid in the process. My hope is that we will have more people understanding why they are paying more for organically versus naturally versus conventionally produced products. I don’t want people to purchase any certain type of food, but rather, be informed about those choices they are making.

I am proud to be apart of those who educate others about agriculture!

Kathy Novotney can be found in Illinois and online at her blog and on Twitter.

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