By Eric Erickson
Agriculture class, FFA are rooted at Como Agriculture isn’t the first thing that people usually associate with an urban, public high school.
In fact, it may not be anywhere on the radar.
But at Como Park High School, courses in agriculture and a Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter are alive and well. Third-year teacher Joshua Munoz is leading the effort and seeing opportunities arise for Como students.
“Introduction to Agriculture” class serves as a springboard for students who want to go above and beyond their initial interest in the elective course. Como’s FFA chapter has about 20 active members.
While FFA groups are common in rural areas across the country, Como has one unique local partner that is well suited to connect St. Paul students with the world of farming — the neighboring agricultural college at the University of Minnesota.
The St. Paul campus that some students pass every day on their way to school houses the College of Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Sciences (CFANS). Como’s FFA attends five different workshops facilitated by CFANS throughout the year.
“FFA is an opportunity for urban students to get involved in Minnesota agriculture and increase their awareness in the abundance of career opportunities,” Munoz said. “Agricultural companies like General Mills, Cargill and Land O’ Lakes highly consider students who are active FFA members.”
To build practical experience and have fun while doing it, FFA students also compete in career development events. Como has a varsity poultry team, fish and wildlife team, floral design team and a soils team (which has qualified for state competition the last two years.)
There are also summer programs in which students can earn volunteer hours. Last summer Como’s FFA students built and maintained a kale garden on campus. They also visited nearby farms to learn and implement sustainable agriculture practices.
Munoz is pursuing an initiative to partner with the city’s Right Track program that would allow students to get paid for their contributions and potentially extend their services.
Senior Liv Miller is Como’s FFA president.
“I’m grateful for my time in FFA.” Miller said. “I love to garden and FFA has helped me apply so much more when I work with the soil. FFA has allowed me to recognize more about the environment and the practices that we do in agriculture and how that effects our environment.”
Eric Erickson is a teacher at Como Park Senior High School and regular contributor to the Bugle.