Ag educator Pam Rowland advises students: discover your passion and follow it

In the southeast corner of Missouri sits 2,000 acres of farmland, Stoddard County Seed and Feed and a woman with a lifelong passion.

Pam Rowland and her husband, Gene, keep busy most of the year as they harvest fields on those 2,000 acres, operate their seed and feed business and spend precious time with loved ones. She and her husband enjoy short vacations between harvests and incorporate agriculture into them any way they can. Rowland, a former ag education teacher, says her greatest enjoyment comes from using the passion she developed from her involvement in agriculture to continue her legacy.

Rowland’s patient tone and inviting smile suggest contentment as she describes her first glimpse at a devotion that would guide her life’s work. Her deep appreciation for agriculture bloomed when she became an FFA member. Her membership led her to serve Missouri as the first female FFA first vice president from 1980 to 1981.

Her experiences in FFA led to agricultural education as a profession. She worked as an agricultural educator for 29 years and said she wouldn’t replace that experience for the world. With her hands folded together and a wide grin across her face, she reminisced about the memories her past students left with her.

“That moment, when my students achieved so much, you just know whatever wonderful things you did in FFA, it’s completely overshadowed when you’re helping your students get to that point,” Rowland said. “When you’re making a positive difference in their lives and you help them achieve and they come off that stage and they are so excited, and they are hugging you. You couldn’t pay me enough not to do this.”

Rowland retired from teaching in 2014 but couldn’t fathom the idea of leaving it behind.

“What do I do?” she said. “Because I can’t give up FFA. This has been a whole big part of my life. This is my life”

Her passion for agricultural education didn’t stop once she retired. In addition to her family business, Rowland serves as the recruitment and retention coordinator for Missouri Teach Ag and the State Teach Ag Results program, and as the executive treasurer of the Missouri Vocational Agriculture Teacher Association (MVATA). She has been on the STAR committee from the very start and wouldn’t have it any other way. Although her goals will always be to encourage students, her goals have shifted as her roles have changed.

According to the National Association of Agricultural Educators, the STAR program was designed to help individual states develop recruitment and retention efforts in hopes to advocate for agricultural education. Over the past several years, the state of Missouri has had agricultural education positions that are unfilled due to a shortage of qualified educators.

One way Missouri Teach Ag reaches out to students is with Teach Ag Ambassadors. Teach Ag Ambassadors are college students from across the state who advocate for agricultural education. These students promote careers in agricultural education to high school students through workshops at the Missouri FFA Leadership Camp, State FFA Convention and conferences. Rowland hopes by creating a conversation and sparking an interest, although it might be small, she can make a difference.

“Mrs. Rowland has passion oozing out of her,” said Kassandra Rankin, MU student and Teach Ag Ambassador. “You can see her passion and intensity for agricultural education the instant you meet her. She is a great leader and knows exactly how to spread her knowledge and passion.”

Rowland’s goal is to celebrate agricultural educators for their work. She said society often overlooks the strenuous amount of work it takes to be a successful educator. Rowland’s effort to support and recognize agricultural educators has not gone unnoticed.

“The thing that stood out to me was her compassion and her care for her fellow ag teacher,” said John Tummons, assistant teaching professor and director of undergraduate studies for Agricultural Education and Leadership at MU. “I think about the ag teacher relief fund and the fundraisers that we did every year to help support teachers who had something happen to them or their family.”

The MVATA works to support agricultural educators who are in need, no matter the reason. They achieve this through the Agricultural Education Relief Fund. The relief fund is funded by donations from fellow Missouri agricultural educators who look to support one another.

“When I think about Pam’s legacy in ag ed in Missouri, it’s the relief fund,” Tummons said. “It was her being up front and center in making sure that there was money raised and there was money also distributed to ag teachers in need.”

Rowland’s influence has spread far from her own classrooms and has reached those of current and future educators. Her passion to create a conversation and encourage students to become agricultural educators won’t rest anytime soon.

“My main role in life now is to encourage college students and to encourage and support current teachers,” Rowland said. “It’s like that’s what God has called me to do.”

Katelyn Elder

About the Author Katelyn Elder

My passion for agriculture has led me to the University of Missouri to major in agricultural education. My plan is to give my future students, some that may not have had it otherwise, the same experience I was given in learning about agriculture. I believe agriculture plays an important part in every person's education and life. My future career will allow me to teach about a variety of topics within agriculture, but I wanted an outlet that would allow me to share stories now and Corner Post gave me just that. I am excited to be writing for Corner Post and I can't wait to see what this semester brings!