The California Agricultural Teachers’ Association was formed in 1920. The purpose of the organization is to promote and improve the teaching of agriculture in California and to foster the welfare of those engaged in this work.
The implementation of the Smith-Hughes Act in 1917 provided for vocational agriculture to be taught in all public secondary schools in the United States. In California, J.B. Lillard filled the first position of State Supervisor for the State Department of Education.
At the summer session of agriculture teachers held at the University Farm, Davis, the teachers developed the organizational structure of the CATA and elected officers to serve the organization. Charles Booth from Chaffey High School served as the first State CATA President, while R.E. Burton from Santa Cruz served as Vice-President and R.J. Werner, Esparto High School, served as Secretary/Treasurer.
With the dramatic increase in programs statewide, the State Department of Education added Regional Supervisor positions to assist with development of local programs and divided the state into regions to facilitate and coordinate instructional improvement activities.
In the early 1920’s, agricultural education faced many challenges from administrators and others. In an attempt to meet these challenges, sectional, regional, and statewide meetings were held on a regular basis so that teachers could share ideas for teaching techniques and for improving curriculum in agricultural education. This peer support and cooperation has been a trademark of agricultural education and has continued to serve as a strength of the CATA organization. In 1928, the California Association of Future Farmers of America was organized. The leadership development of young people involved in agricultural education became an important consideration of the CATA. Over the next several years, the CATA would develop a series of contests and activities to assist the FFA organization in a leadership development program. A set of rules governing these contests and activities would be developed, which we fondly refer to today as the CATA Curricular Code.
Over the next several decades, there was continued growth and expansion of agricultural education throughout California. The Junior/Community College agricultural programs had a slow start, but began to develop rapidly in the 1960's. Leadership by agricultural instructors at the Junior College level has contributed tremendously to the success of the total educational effort in agricultural education. The close communication and cooperation between high school and community college programs has benefited thousands of students enrolled in agriculture.
Throughout it's history, CATA has maintained a strong tradition of leadership and involvement in other state and national organizations. CATA members have dramatically influenced the structure, policies, and practices of organizations like ACTE , and the NAAE. Several CATA officers have served on national committees and boards of related organizations, contributing to the overall success of agricultural education.
In the early 1980's, CATA members recognized the need to improve their voice in state and national policies affecting agricultural education. Members voted to increase the level of dues paid to the organization, create the position of Executive Director, and to establish a State CATA Office adjacent to the State Capitol in Sacramento. Over the next several years, CATA had a dramatic influence on several key initiatives, including the formation of the Agricultural Incentive Grant program, which greatly increased funding for secondary agricultural education programs in California.
For the past eighty years, the California Agricultural Teachers' Association has contributed greatly to the success of agricultural education efforts in California and beyond. This success can be attributed to the dedication of purpose, self-sacrifice, and vision shared by those involved in this tremendous profession. California's tradition of agricultural excellence is due in great part to those whose lives have been touched by the members of CATA - a legacy of which we can all be very proud.