Advancements in agricultural research and technology have revolutionized the field of agriculture. Thanks to Connecticut’s Agricultural Science and Technology Education (ASTE) program, students are graduating well-equipped to meet the challenges of modern agriculture.
Since 1955, Connecticut has offered high school students the opportunity to have a concentrated agricultural curriculum. The ASTE program began with a single pilot school, and has grown to include approximately 3,500 students in 19 regional agricultural science and technology centers located within high schools across the state.
The ASTE program is run by the Connecticut Department of Education and led by Director of Career and Technical Education Harold Mackin. Mackin says the program prepares qualified employees for career success in the agriculture, food and natural resources cluster area.
A five-year follow-up survey on the status of ASTE graduates is conducted annually, Mackin says.
“The survey consistently shows that the ASTE students have graduated from post-secondary education and college, and are gainfully employed at much higher rates than their peers,” Mackin says.
The 2017 survey lists dozens of job titles currently held by the class of 2011, including farmer, mechanic, veterinary assistant, engineer and loan officer, demonstrating the diversity of career paths taken by ASTE program graduates.
According to the 2017 survey, 93 percent of the class of 2011 is employed, and 36 percent is employed full time in an agriculture-related field. The survey also finds that 75 percent of the class of 2011 has post- secondary degrees or certificates, and 78 percent who started a four-year college degree program earned a degree, while 18 percent are still in college or another advanced study or training program.
Amanda Freund is a 2006 graduate of the ASTE program who now works for her family’s farm, Freund’s Farm and CowPots, LLC, in East Canaan. Freund says her ASTE high school education and FFA experience helped her gain the confidence and skills to be an effective leader and public speaker.
William Davenport, director of the ASTE Program at Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury, currently has a waitlist of approximately 85 students for the Woodbury program alone, evidence of strong demand for the highly competitive program.
“It is crucial for the state to continue to fund these successful career-based, time-tested programs,” Davenport says. “But there needs to be an increase in state funding to grow the programs to meet the demand of students interested in attending and the careers in agriculture that await them upon graduation.”