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story.lead_photo.caption Erin Carl poses with her award in the FFA classroom at Nichols Career Center. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

For her efforts and contributions to the FFA and advancing agricultural education, the Missouri FFA Association recently named Erin Carl a recipient of an Honorary State FFA Degree.

Since 2009, Carl, a Holts Summit resident, has been an agriculture instructor and FFA advisor for the Nichols Career Center FFA Chapter in Jefferson City.

"Our FFA program restarted in 2002 after not being active for several years," Carl said. "We do the same things you would think FFA does, but our kids are more urban than most of the other FFA schools. We don't have as many kids who come from a farm. A lot of our kids have gardens and small animals."

Carl said the Nichols program has students from Helias Catholic High School, which doesn't have an FFA program, as well as students from Capital City High School.

"Kids are getting into FFA here because the leadership opportunities are huge," Carl said. "I don't think kids realize how big agriculture really is and the opportunities that are out there. Here in Jefferson City there are number of jobs kids can have due to us having the state Agriculture Department located here and other state organizations such as the Missouri Corn Growers Association. They provide a number of opportunities for young people interested in agriculture."

In Carl's teaching career, she has coached several career development event teams and advised numerous proficiency award, State FFA Degree and American FFA Degree recipients. Her favorite subjects to teach are plant science and leadership.

"One of our big focuses is agriculture literacy," Carl said. "We have kids — and I'm amazed at this — that don't realize pickles are cucumbers. I heard that a lot in my first few years teaching, and I thought, 'We really are in a different place.'"

Carl was raised in Berger and was a member of the Hermann FFA Chapter in high school. Her family grew crops and raised beef cattle. As she grew up on the farm, she realized she wanted to be a teacher; and in high school she decided she would be an agriculture teacher.

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"Agriculture education should be taught in all schools," Carl said. "The kids should know where their food comes from because if it isn't taught then their lack of knowledge on food production will only get worse. They don't need to necessarily know how to raise their food, but they need to know where the process starts. I don't think everyone is going to go back to raising their own animals and having their own garden, but I do think they need know the process their food went through and that it is safe to eat."

Outside of school, Carl volunteers as co-executive director for Camp Quality, a camp for children with cancer and their siblings.

Many events at the Jefferson City Jaycees Cole County Fair this week will feature Carl's students, who will exhibit steers and hogs; several will be involved in ham and bacon competitions.

"FFA can be for everybody," Carl said. "You don't have to have an interest in agriculture or farming. We can find something for everyone to get involved with."

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