Biofuels Education Critical to Ensuring Rural Growth

FROM THE MAY ISSUE: Educating students key to rural development and growth.
By Kelly Manning | April 17, 2019

While growing up on our family farm in South Dakota, I learned that hard work is what makes rural America the bedrock of our country. My family successfully grew corn and soybeans, and raised cattle, hogs and chickens for many years. But when I left my family farm in 1986, my father was selling his corn for $1.30 per bushel—a historic low.

And as I grew older and traveled around the country witnessing the new role of technology in agriculture and improvements in conservation, I saw firsthand that we needed to do a better job educating our nation’s future leaders on both the highs and lows the agricultural community feels each year. That largely means we need to create our own innovators and advocates within our communities, which is why I am so proud of Growth Energy’s new Biofuels Curriculum, created in partnership with the National Association of Agricultural Educators.

The ethanol industry is an example of how rural America continues to evolve to keep rural growth strong. I joined Growth Energy close to 10 years ago, and every day I am honored to represent an industry that has done so much to create value for American agriculture. I have seen the role that education and advocacy can have in spurring growth. As an industry, we recognize how critical reinvesting in rural America and its future leaders is, and in 2014, Growth Energy’s leadership developed a relationship with the National FFA Organization to do just that.

Future Farmers of America currently has nearly 670,000 members. These members, and many more non-FFA members, are taught and advised in agriculture classrooms across the country by more than 13,000 agricultural educators. Growth Energy’s investment in FFA directly supports teachers, ag careers, and advocacy by allowing young students the opportunity to participate in leadership training, gain access to educational resources, and pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and ag-related industries. To further support these educational efforts, Growth Energy partnered with FFA and the NAAE to develop a biofuels curriculum designed to expose students to the world of biofuels and encourage them to pursue a career in agriculture and STEM.

Offering six activities over a two-week course, the curriculum gives students a glimpse into the technological, historical and political context of biofuels, and guides them through a hands-on production process where students measure ethanol’s energy content and emissions. For students interested in pursuing a career in STEM or agriscience, this course is a fantastic introduction to how rural America is staying on the cutting edge of innovation and technology, and how they can help ensure a strong future for their communities.

Growth Energy, through its partnership with FFA and NAAE, continues to help the next generation rise to meet those challenges by encouraging students to explore their interests in a broad range of agricultural career pathways. A strong rural America is not only fostering future farmers, but also future biologists, future chemists, future veterinarians, future engineers and future entrepreneurs. Hard work will always be the driving force behind rural America, but it must also be paired with innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. We encourage anyone who is interested in promoting agricultural and STEM education in their communities to visit and help us ensure a bright future for our next generation of ag leaders.

Author: Kelly Manning
Vice President of Development, Growth Energy