High school ag programs flourish as farms dwindle

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings). Chase Martin, left, and Harley Brown work with teacher Chris Kaufman on a project during Plant and Soil Science class at Beech Grove High School Wednesday, April 30, 2014, in Indianapolis.
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High school agriculture programs sprouting across the nation's Corn Belt are teaching teenagers that careers in the field often have nothing to do with cows and plows.
    
Such offerings are taking hold as school budgets tighten and the numbers of farms in the U.S. decline.
    
Supporters tout the classes as rich in science and as stepping stones for college-bound students considering careers in everything from urban forestry to renewable natural resources and genetic engineering of crops.
    
Tens of thousands of jobs open up each year in the broader agriculture field, and roughly half are filled by college grads with actual ag-related degrees.
    
The growth of such programs has swelled membership of Future Farmers of America.
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