Agriculture Teacher Shortage

Looking  for an agricultural job? Think education. Supply and demand is on your side if you want to be an ag education teacher.

Unfortunately, not enough graduates do and observers say the situation  needs a solution.

llinois faces a critical need for ag education graduates to teach agriculture in the classroom for future agronomists, animal scientists, agribusiness men, farmers and ag teachers.

Ellen Thompson, coordinator of the National Teach Ag Campaign and a former ag teacher herself, says there is simply an ag teacher shortage that isn’t likely to be filled soon.

Illinois currently has 322 high school agriculture programs instructing more than 29,200 students statewide. More than 390 teachers teach agriculture and serve as FFA advisers to 17,640 FFA members. Over the past five years, the state has averaged 48 teacher vacancies annually.

There are teacher educator programs at the University of Illinois, Illinois State University, Southern Illinois University and Western Illinois University. The four universities produce  only 13 ag education graduates each year. However,  a number of those graduates end up choosing other careers.

The ag teacher shortage faces challenges of increasingly difficult state licensing requirements, especially for prospective ag teachers from other states. Simply put, it’s difficult for teachers from other states to enter Illinois’ ag classrooms.

The National Teach Ag Campaign, Illinois Facilitation Coordination in Ag Education shares these numbers concerning supply and demand of ag teachers:

  • 650 annual ag education graduates nationwide
  • 460 annual ag ed  graduates who become teachers
  • 394 projected ag teacher shortfall nationwide
  • 11 Illinois ag education graduates in 2013
  • 6 Illinois ag ed graduates became teachers
  • 57 Illinois ag education openings 2012-2013 with 56 filled.

What’s the solution?

Ag leaders have been brainstorming to find answers to recruit new teachers and retain current ones. Revamping state teacher testing and licensing may be needed, as well as better marketing of programs.

In the meantime, farmers and those of us who care about agriculture’s future may need to start talking up the importance of ag education – classroom instruction,  work experience and FFA.

My brother was in FFA, and I was an FFA sweetheart – back in a time when girls couldn’t wear the traditional blue and gold jacket. Despite that discrimination, I can’t think of a better organization to learn something about agriculture. Vo Ag programs – and FFA—offer great life experiences that go way beyond farming.

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About the author

Charlyn Fargo spent 27 years at the State Journal-Register covering agriculture, business and food. She currently is the Bureau Chief of County Fairs & Horse Racing with the Illinois Department of Agriculture. She is also a Registered Dietitian and writes a weekly syndicated nutrition column for Creator’s News Service ( and is co-owner of Simply Fair, a fair trade boutique at 2357 W. Monroe in Springfield. She has bachelor’s degrees in agricultural communications and food from the University of Illinois, Champaign and a master’s degree in nutrition from Eastern Illinois University. She and her husband, Brad Ware, have a daughter, Kate, and son, Jayden. When she’s not working or writing, she enjoys baking cookies for Simply From Scratch, a company she formed to support faith-based ministries.

View all articles by Charlyn Fargo

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