Fueling Conservation Education — Emily Hutton

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Emily Hutton moved to #AgriReady McDonald County to teach agriculture after she grew up in nearby Mt. Vernon, Missouri, on a small beef farm. To evade picking up rocks during one of her own high school summers, Emily attended the Missouri Conservation Quail Academy. The weeklong immersive academy experience focused on everything about quail, their habitat, and how all land use affects wildlife and natural resources. Emily was “blown away” and hooked on conservation for life.

Emily attended Missouri State University where she achieved a degree in wildlife conservation and management and then continued there to complete a master’s degree in natural and applied science with an emphasis in agriculture education.

“At first I didn’t have the confidence to be an ag teacher, but I always thought that would be the way to make the most positive difference, to start by teaching youth,” Emily said.

Roadblocks in other career paths gave Emily the nudge she needed to dive into agriculture education and she is now a 12-year veteran teacher for the McDonald County R-1 High School Agriculture Education Department.

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Emily’s teaching expertise focuses on wildlife conservation, forestry, leadership and agriculture science 1 classes. As an FFA advisor she coaches career development teams for forestry, nursery & landscape, ag sales, food science, and individual students for prepared public speaking. As the largest student organization at McDonald County R-1 High School, two other teachers round out the robust agriculture department. The FFA chapter attains 100% membership of the more than 200 agriculture education students.

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McDonald County is an agricultural powerhouse generating $1.7 billion in economic output, over 83% of the total economic activity of the county. Agriculture in the county supports over 7,400 jobs, with over 6,600 of those in meat and poultry processing. As the poultry capital of Missouri, many students arrive to the agriculture department believing that line work at local processing plants encompasses the full scope of agriculture. One of Emily’s goals is to show students that there is so much to agriculture in addition to opportunities in poultry processing.Emily enjoys watching students make connections between agriculture and their everyday lives. She loves to see them learn where food comes from, identify cuts of meat, converse using the actual names of fish, or create a plan to strengthen the genetics of a deer herd.

“Agriculture education is important because it is the basis of everything,” Emily said. “I want the kids to grow to be decent humans that understand their world and understand the impact that they have on it.”

Emily’s husband Neal also teaches at McDonald County R-1 High School, and they have two young sons. The family has a small farm at home with goats, rabbits, chickens and quail. They enjoy camping and hiking, and the kids show at the local county fair. Emily serves on the McDonald County Farm Bureau board where she specifically helps to connect graduating agriculture students that are moving into the workforce with Farm Bureau. She is also a member of the Conservation Federation of Missouri and Missouri Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association (MVATA). Missouri Farm Bureau and MVATA are partners of Missouri Farmers Care.

To see the full impact of agriculture in McDonald County, visit: https://agriculture.mo.gov/economicimpact/county-pdf/McDonald.pdf.