As the U.S. population continues to increase at an alarming rate, more fertile land is being used to build housing and business establishments for the rapidly growing cities. The land should be used for agriculture production. Agriculturist are having to find new ways to feed the rapidly growing population because of the lack of land. This has become a great struggle for the few farmers that feed the population. While most of the farmers are older than 55 years of age, the younger generation needs to become more involved with this industry. “The future of agriculture in America depends on the investment and involvement of America’s young people,” said Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky from Farm Industry News. By educating the younger generation about agriculture, while they are still in school, will show them all the opportunities that this industry has to offer.
While this problem alone is not simply in the United States, but also in other countries. Agriculture is one of the industries that doesn’t attract many of the youth because it is mainly viewed as an industry that is mainly manual labor, no economic benefit and no career advancement, even though it is one industry that is constantly evolving. Most are not informed about all the different benefits and opportunities that the agriculture industry offers. The industry is more than subsistence farming, it also offers career opportunities such as marketing, permaculture design, biodynamic farming, communication technologies, food preparation, environmental sciences, advanced technologies, and more. This is where educators, businesses, policy makers and farmers need to promote agriculture as an economically sustainable career.
Farming is one of the areas of the industry that has had major decrease within the industry. Danielle Nierenberg, an American activist, author, and a journalist and current president of Food Tank, and Sarah Small, the former Chief of Staff at Food Tank, say that half of the farmers within the United States “…are 55 years or older” (Nierenberg and Small, 2014). With the ageing population of farmers, this simply goes to prove that agriculture needs to attract the younger generations.
Another dying practice is family farming. Most of the family farms have been cut down to “small-to-midscale generational farming…” it’s also harder to keep the family farm in the family because “… their children either don’t want to, or can’t afford to take over for them” says Gracy Olmstead the writer and journalist. (Olmstead, 2014). There has been more of an increase in more industrialized, corporatized operations. These larger farming enterprises aren’t all bad, but their business models aren’t to help tend to the land for future production like small farms do. Also, with the increase in numbers in larger farming enterprises it makes it harder for the small farmer to stay in business. Farm Aid explains that how the bigger corporations have more control over the industry and are running the smaller farmer out of business because they can’t handle the prices of items, they need to successfully operate their farm. “Sellers with high market power can inflate the prices farmers must pay for theses items…processors and other powerful buyers can suppress the prices they offer farmers” (Corporate Control). This is where the other jobs in the agriculture industry can help resolve the issues.
Young farmers are rare in the United States, but according to a survey made by Johnson says that “the future of agriculture will be in good hands with more involvement of the youth.” Jan Johnson is the president of Millennium Research, a 21-year-old agribusiness consulting firm dedicated to helping companies serve farmers better. Johnson believes that the reason there will be an increase in youth is because of the technological advancements. That’s what sets the younger generation apart from the older farmers. Young farmers are willing to research and try to adopt new technology. “… Young people can transform the agriculture sector by applying new technologies and new thinking” said Mark Holderness, from Executive Secretary of the Global Forum for Agricultural Research. Another reason young agriculturist will save the industry is that they are looking for new ways to expand their farming operations and are being more self-efficient and well-educated. Johnsons survey said that “… 57% have at least a Bachelor’s degree, and 11% have a Master’s degree” (Johnson, 2018). Another benefit that Johnson goes to prove is that “… the farmers that responded to our survey were all under 40 years old, and most of the them have been the decision maker in their farm for many years, … we believe the increase size of farming operations, the complexity of decision making, risk management, and new computerized technology has led to younger farmers taking the management reins years earlier than they used to” (Johnson, 2018). This change means that they are more self-reliant when it comes to their operations. Younger generation of farmers care about their farm’s future and value, and are willing to take the extra steps to further their operation.
The Agriculture industry can also come with many benefits and opportunities to help other people. Agriculture can be a gold mine for young entrepreneurs, new technology, and there will always be a demand for agriculturist. With the vast number of benefits that the industry comes with this creates many opportunities that entrepreneurs can thrive in while helping local business and can be a pathway to engaging youth in agriculture and keeping them in rural areas. Entrepreneurs have been thriving in this industry due to the limitless possibilities with helping farmers, creating new technology, starting new programs and organizations to help further research. With the new technology that is coming out to help agriculturist meet the demand of the growing population. It also helps with the marketing and science behind the industry. This allows scientists to find new and inventive ways to meet demands and find new ways to help the environment. With marketing, it allows for major corporations to keep track of sales, markets, and trading. There will also always be a demand for agriculturist because humans will always need food and other products made by plants and animals. Agriculturists lead to new technology, ecologically friendly equipment, or harvesting method that revolutionizes how people of the future are fed, clothed, or sheltered.
One way to start future agriculturalist at a younger age is to introduce agriculture in the classroom and their communities. While farms and farmers continue to decrease, rural based youth organizations have been making a comeback in interest, membership, and support from donors and volunteers. Theses student organizations such as FFA, 4-H, Ag Future of America (AFA), Agriculture Communicators of Tomorrow (ACT), and AgriBusiness Educational Foundation (ABEF) to name a couple, draw attention to the rural and urban communities. Each of these organization grow the agriculture industries future leaders and supporters. These organizations make an impact on their members from prior experiences they had within the organizations. “Agricultural experiences with direct ties to 4-H and FFA have … influenced student decisions to enroll in colleges of agriculture. FFA participation, in particular, positively influenced 61% of those studies” (Duncan, 2015). This just goes to prove that these organizations play major role in the youth, so they can later purse agricultural careers. Not only is it the organizations, but the educators and advisor that also make an impact. “Educators can play a key role in cultivating interest in a particular field or study…” (Miller, 2013). With these industries making an impact in young peoples lives all over the world it will help keep agriculture alive.
Other major agriculture corporations such as the USDA, Monsanto, Farm Credit, John Deer, Tractor Supply Company and others, help connect young people and youth-serving organization get engage, empower, and educate the next generation of agriculture leaders. One of the ways that the USDA has currently helped the young people engage in agriculture is by recently launched a new Youth and Agriculture website. “The USDA Youth and Agriculture website features three key components of agriculture-focused youth engagement – classroom studies, experiential learning, and leadership training” (USDA, 2019). This website not only helps the youth, but also the educators find new and inventive ways to include agriculture in the classroom. The website provides information on a vast majority of activities and programs. “Young people can learn about USDA summer outreach programs, youth loans for business projects, … internships and scholarships, USDA employment, and information on agriculture career fields…” (USDA, 2019). Monsanto is also a major company that has continuously supported agriculture programs. “As a company 100% focused on agriculture, Monsanto continues to invest in programs that not only support the agricultural education of youth, but also get them excited about the future in agriculture,” says Ernesto Fajardo (qtd. in Investing par. 3). Monsanto is a global modern agriculture company, that develops products and tools to help farmers around the world grow crops while using energy, water, and land more efficiently. This company is also a major contributor for education and critical needs in communities around the world through The Monsanto Fund. Monsanto has also “partnered with numerous organizations that make a difference in the lives of young people…” (Investing, 2008). Monsanto doesn’t only help fund, but it also creates educational programs to help students for a future in agriculture.
Scholarships and grants also make a huge impact for young agriculturalist. By granting scholarships and grants to students wanting to pursue careers in agriculture it allows them to reach their full potential by giving young agriculturist the opportunity of higher education. It also helps build their confidence in their ability to work for a better future. There are programs in place that encourage high school students to further their education by granting them awards and scholarships for careers in agriculture. The major livestock shows are also following this trend by granting scholarships to winners in their competitions. “The San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo’s educational commitment totals more than $198 million with $12 million committed in 2018 in the form of scholarships, grants, endowments, auctions, a calf scramble program and show premiums paid to youth” (Educational, 2019). By granting these opportunities to future agriculturist it helps ensure the future of the United States agricultures growing industry.
The youth need to be taught that agriculture is more than “sows, cows, and plows.” So, what are educators and other industries doing to keep the youth interested in the industry? Some educators start at an early age by incorporating agriculture in the classroom. Educators don’t have to do this alone, there are so many resources that they can utilize for both formal and informal education. They do this through classroom activities, local speakers, industry representatives, technology, and field trips. Heather Miller, an agriculture educator and an Extension 4-H club leader, describes some excellent teacher resources such as the Ag In the Classroom Organization. She states that “each state has a level unit as a part of this national program run through the U.S. Department of Agriculture” (Miller, 2013). This national program publishes agriculture magazines called Ag In the Classroom Magazines. Each of the magazines have “interesting facts, good explanations of the topic, great photos and activities built into them that teachers can easily use in an urban community” (Miller, 2013). Miller is also very fond of “Learning Gardens”. Learning Gardens are something that the entire school or organization can get involved in. This can be a large or small project within the community to help inform the youth about agriculture. Educators can also bring in local speakers representing an organization to inform them about their industry it be agribusiness, environmental sciences food preparation or even local businesses. The representatives that come can show them the opportunities that can come within their specialties and what they do within their department. Another good way to show the youth about agriculture is by taking the students on field trips to local farms, conventions, packing plants, meat markets, or cotton gins. All of these allow the students to see how their everyday items are produced. These are effective and fun ways to incorporate agriculture in the classroom.
Not every school offers an agriculture program. Agriculture Education is essential in many different ways and educators need to show the students where their everyday items come from. For the schools that are offered an agriculture education course each program is different and unique in its own way. The courses range from Agricultural Business to Agricultural Economics, Animal Science, Horticulture, Floriculture. Agricultural Mechanics, Bioengineering, Natural Resources, Leadership Development and many others. Each one of these courses have their own pathways that strives to improve the agriculture industry.
Agriculture education should be a requirement for all students before they graduate high school. Jeremey Workman, an active agriculturist, also believes this. His research found that a young man in Idaho “… is helping put forth legislation requiring all students to take ag classes” (Workman). The legislation states that each student would be required to take two semesters of agriculture courses before they graduate high school. This piece legislation would put the importance of agriculture back into the cutting edge of education. According to Workman when he was in high school “… in a very rural area of Texas, there were a great number of students that did not understand agriculture and only saw kids getting out to spend a week at a livestock show” (Workman). With a requirement of an agriculture course in place, it brings back some fundamental knowledge that everyone should obtain while also benefiting the agriculture industry itself. People should understand where their food comes from and what steps it takes to feed a world.
The agriculture industry is more than “sows, cows, and plows” it has so many benefits and opportunities within every area of the industry. The youth are the future of the agriculture industry. Without the young agriculturist the industry would fall behind with all the advancing technology. So, in conclusion by educating the younger generation about agriculture, while they are still in school, will benefit the agriculture industry and themselves.
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