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Volume 2, Issue 6, December 2020

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Research Articles

Evaluation of Learning Outcomes from Participation in a Student-Managed Commodity Investment Fund

A. Ford Ramsey and Olga Isengildina-Massa

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Posted online: December 14, 2020
doi: 10.22004/ag.econ.308492

Abstract: Students in agricultural and applied economics are expected to develop skills and knowledge allowing them to perform tasks in agribusinesses and related industries. Skills range from technical abilities in the discipline to soft skills, such as communication ability or leadership performance, which may be more broadly applicable. We present results of a survey of undergraduates and graduate students participating in a student-managed commodity investment fund. The fund provides an experiential learning opportunity for undergraduate students and allows them to learn about commodity markets (futures, options, and other derivatives) while simultaneously improving technical, communication, and leadership skills. Students consider soft skills to be an important factor determining their participation and improve both soft and hard skills through participation.

Keywords: Commodities, experiential learning, finance, futures, investing

Teaching and Educational Methods

Teaching about Diversity and Racism in Food Systems: An Example for Agricultural Economics and Related Departments

Jane Kolodinsky and Daniel Tobin

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Posted online: December 1, 2020
Supplementary Materials
doi: 10.22004/ag.econ.308493

Abstract: This paper presents curriculum and metrics for a course titled U.S. Food, Social Equity & Development, taught since 2015. The course meets a race and racism diversity course requirement at the University of Vermont. Departments affiliated with AAEA have an obligation to teach and inform our students about racism in the food system: individual and systemic, intended and unintended, institutional and structural. This has been reinforced by the June 3, 2020, AAEA statement condemning racially motivated acts of violence, police brutality, and overreach of military action, and committed to pledging positive action toward diversity, equity, and inclusion. By understanding the opportunity associated with our obligation, we will graduate future professionals and scholars who understand the importance of including issues of racism in their research; future food producers who will better recognize and attend to the issue of racism; and future consumers who understand how their consumption decisions impact racism.

Keywords: Agriculture, food systems, race, racism, undergraduate education

Educating the Next Generation of Interdisciplinary Researchers to Tackle Global Sustainability Challenges: A Graduate Course 

Thomas W. Hertel

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Posted online: December 8, 2020
Supplementary Materials
doi: 10.22004/ag.econ.308494

Abstract: This paper describes an innovative graduate course in agricultural economics that has evolved over the past decade and attracts students from across the Purdue University campus. Its novel combination of guest lectures on key sustainability topics, and intensive, computer-based lab assignments with the SIMPLE model of global food and environmental security, prepares students to undertake innovative projects. These independent projects are presented to the class, written up, and submitted in lieu of a final exam. The topics covered are quite diverse and range from the impacts of women empowerment on food security, to the consequences of heat stress on farm workers, and the impact of reducing food waste. The course has spawned two dozen published journal articles, inspired MS and PhD theses, and facilitated a number of important interdisciplinary projects. The complete syllabus, lab assignments, and detailed course design are made available for others to use and adapt to their own circumstances. Future versions of the course will seek to incorporate explicitly spatial analysis of agriculture, land, water, and environmental quality outcomes.

Keywords: Teaching applied economics, global economic analysis, interdisciplinary coursework, sustainability

Flipping Together: A Collaborative Approach to a Flipped Class

Kasee L. Smith, Aaron J. Johnson, and Dain R. Johnson

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Posted online: January 6, 2021
doi: 10.22004/ag.econ.308495

Abstract: The flipped classroom approach has been cited as a method for increasing student engagement, enhancing content comprehension, and integrating practical application of concepts. Opponents note its complex nature as a barrier to successful integration. To mitigate this limitation, a faculty member in agricultural economics worked with a faculty member in agricultural education to create and present an upper-level agricultural sales course with flipped and traditional instructional components. The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of delivery methods on student confidence. Impacts of the two approaches were assessed through a pre/post course survey of student perceptions of content topics and confidence in knowledge of individual course topics. Although grades were similar to previous semesters, students had varying degrees of change in confidence and knowledge for information presented through the flipped or traditional methods. The instructor benefited by a reinvigorated approach to a topic that had suffered from stagnation. The benefits to students’ confidence and knowledge, and the reinvigorated energy the instructor gained outweighed the costs to the effort of creating the flipped components, and a collaborative approach is recommended for those content experts uncertain of their ability to flip a classroom.

Keywords: Active learning, collaboration, flipped classroom, flipped instruction, pedagogy

Case Studies

Consolidation in the Farm Credit System: The Case of AgCountry and United

Erik D Hanson

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Posted: December 18, 2020
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doi: 10.22004/ag.econ.308496

Abstract: Agricultural lenders provide an important service in America’s agricultural economy. In recent years, consolidation has occurred in many aspects of agriculture, including agricultural lending. This educational case study examines consolidation in the Farm Credit System (FCS), which is a system of cooperatively owned agricultural lending associations. The merger between AgCountry Farm Credit Services and United FCS illustrates some drivers of consolidation in the Farm Credit System and provides opportunities to consider the advantages and disadvantages of a merger. The perspectives of the associations’ leaders, member-owners, and employees are explored, allowing students to offer tactical and strategic advice to these stakeholders. This case study is intended for undergraduate students taking courses in agricultural finance, agricultural lending, or cooperatives.

Keywords: Agricultural finance, agricultural lending, consolidation, Farm Credit System, merger