Young Tennessee “Agvocates” Share Farm Life With the World

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Josie Miller; Young Agvocates

Mary Massey’s work at Catesa Farms in Riddleton has inspired her to pursue a major in ag business. Photo credit: Jeff Adkins

Tennessee is home to a number of young agricultural stars using their voices to advocate for agriculture. These three “agvocates” are just an example of the many across the state who share their stories of caring for animals, growing crops and the hard work that goes along with it, along with addressing misconceptions about farming.

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Josey Miller

Josey Miller teaches agriculture classes and serves as an FFA advisor at Lenoir City High School. Photo credit: Nathan Lambrecht

Josey Miller: The Ag Teacher

Age: 33

Location: Lenoir City in East Tennessee

Josey Miller often tells her students at Lenoir City High School: “Agriculture is everywhere. Agriculture is life.”

She should know. Caring for livestock on the family farm – she now owns 6 acres of it – Miller enjoyed her high school summers as a 4-H camp volunteer leader so much that she kept doing it during her college internships in Tennessee and Montana. Not surprisingly, her first job was as a 4-H program assistant in Loudon County.

“And that threw me headlong into classrooms with fourth through eighth grade (students),” Miller says.

After that, she became an Extension agent in Rhea County and an agriculture teacher and advisor for the Lenoir City FFA Chapter, the national organization formerly known as Future Farmers of America.

See more: Tennessee Farm Bureau Celebrates 30 Years of Ag Education

She’d almost finished her master’s degree in ag leadership in 2014 when her former agriculture teacher called to tell her a position had opened up at Lenoir City High School.

“I really want to be able to make a difference in the kids’ lives all the time,” Miller says.

She now teaches horticulture, aquaculture and ag mechanics, which includes welding, woodworking and plumbing, and prefers to show students how to find their own information rather than answer their questions outright. It helps she’s a farmer herself who, incidentally, serves as a good role model by donating produce to food banks, a local domestic violence shelter and her neighbors.

The best part of the job is watching the teens mature, she notes.

“You see this little freshman who is scared to death of reciting the FFA creed,” she says.

“And then you see them up there on the stage as the valedictorian giving a speech to hundreds of people with no problem at all. It’s really neat to know you have been a huge part of that change.”

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