Principles of Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources

Course Overview

Units at a glance

What do you think of when you think of a farmer, a baker, or a logger? For many people, it’s an old-fashioned image – one involving hand tools, 4 a.m. alarms, and maybe even overalls! This isn’t the reality of modern careers in farming, food processing, or natural resources. These careers are modern and innovative and rely upon rapidly advancing technology. Careers in agriculture, food, and natural resources provide some of the most essential things in life. Farmers grow the food we eat, and those in natural resources help to provide fuel to warm our homes in the winter. These careers support old-fashioned values while integrating modern technology to maximize production, protect the environment, and improve outcomes for both workers and consumers.

What does being a hard worker, an ethical person, a strong team member, and an effective leader have to do with agriculture and natural resources education? These traits shape who you are and how you will function in the workplace. And they shape the fundamental goals of agricultural organizations, such as Future Farmers of America (FFA). In this unit, you’ll learn about leadership, teamwork, ethics, and ethical dilemmas in agriculture, and about how FFA and other organizations prepare students for higher education, or the workplace, in agriculture and natural resources.

Once upon a time, people had to learn to farm. They had to learn to grow crops and raise animals for food, how to store food, and how to make new tools to use for farming, mining, and other tasks. As the population grew, they had to produce more food, and do so with fewer people as more of the population turned to work in factories. That change didn’t happen everywhere, and today parts of the world remain predominantly agricultural, facing challenges and struggles even in the modern world.

It’s not all plows, mining equipment, and tractors—information technology is essential to manage and maintain records, track outcomes, and help you to effectively manage a farm, ranch, or other business enterprise. You have to be able to organize, plan, and maintain records to thrive, succeed, and turn a profit. For many people, careers in agriculture and small business are also careers as business owners, and your skills need to be as efficient in the office as in the fields.

In agriculture today, plants don’t just provide us with fruits, vegetables, and grains. They also provide feed for meat and dairy producing animals and raw materials for biofuels. They even prevent soil erosion and maintain the natural
landscape. Understanding what plants need, the different types of plants, and how they grow is essential to the study of agriculture, food, and natural resources. In this unit, you’ll learn some basic botany and biology and be introduced to soil chemistry and some environmental science.

Farmers aren’t vets, but they do have to understand their livestock to provide them with the care they need. This includes different types of livestock and their function, animal anatomy, reproduction, and breeding. You’ll learn about different types of animals: poultry, sheep, goats, and cattle. If you have livestock to care for, you’ll need to understand milk and egg production, shearing schedules, and normal growth rates.

Some foods can be eaten straight from the farm or orchard—think of a summer peach, freshly picked. Most foods, however, take some processing in the food production industry. Processing can be large scale or small scale, but it involves a range of actions from butchering and pasteurizing to canning and freezing. You’ll need to know how food production works and what producers and customers need to run a successful farm or agricultural enterprise.

Power, structural, and technical systems keep the industries of agriculture, food, and natural resources moving. These are the skills that build the barns, design and construct equipment, and keep engines in trucks and tractors running. In this unit, you’ll learn about engines and power tools, construction and welding, and some of the high-tech and innovative computer and engineering skills in use in these fields. This range of skills varies from everyday tasks to specialized job skills, and they are essential to working in these hands-on occupations.

Although natural resources do not include food, they’re just as essential as food in many ways. Today, we rely on this industry for energy, power, and much more. In this unit, you will learn about natural resources and how we use those resources; these include all of the things we use that come from nature: water, coal, oil, and other resources. Natural resources meet a wide variety of needs for people from fertile farmland to metal ores. But the extraction and use of natural resources can damage the environment in a variety of ways. Sustainable practices enable the use of natural resources at a relatively limited environmental cost.

Environmental well-being and considerations are essential to the continued production of food and natural resources. In this unit, you’ll learn about practices in agriculture, food processing, and natural resources that damage the environment, and about new ideas about sustainability to protect the environment from that damage. The three pillars of sustainability make environmental care only one of three key factors to consider, along with economic well-being, social consideration, and the well-being of workers. In addition, you’ll learn about some new ways technology is supporting employee safety in these fields.

Course Highlights

Discover the changing face of today’s agriculture and its continued importance in our lives.
Examine emerging trends in agriculture, food production, and natural resources.
Investigate the use of technology in agriculture and food production.
Explore how we can feed the world and manage our natural resources.

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