Why DO I Advocate For Agriculture

I find this pretty interesting. Out of 5 kids in my family, I am the only one with the slightest interest in a future in Agriculture. I’ve got a brother who is into mechanics, another that has interest in accounting/banking, a sister that’s smarter than us all and loves science, and another that… (well I’m not sure what she wants to do). Point being, I’m the only one carrying on agriculture in my family.

My brother and I went for a drive a few weeks ago. He’s starting his Senior year in high school and already thinking about college. He is looking into the accounting field and business. My family probably gets tired of my agvocacy (It might come up often). In passing, I usually mention jobs and careers in agriculture related fields, usually sparking up crickets. To be honest, it kinda frustrates me. So I asked my brother, why not go into AgBusiness in college. You can still do accounting, get most of the skills of a business major, but in an ag setting, and have an additional skills that’ll help your career in this rural part of the country. I get an automatic shut out.

So we decide to approach it as a debate, just to get thoughts out there and keep some type of conversation flowing. He says there is no interest in agriculture, and not everyone has to be in ag production. We still need processing and transport for food.

True. So I come up with this description. In my generation, with all our spouses, I’ll be one person producing food for 10 people. Suppose we all have only 2 kids, only of my continues in ag production. That’s one person feeding 20 people; only accounting for his generation. They all have 2 kids, only one of my grandkids continues in ag production. That’s one person feeding 40 people; only accounting for his generation. And the math goes on.

Sure this is only one family, a hypothetical situation. But I’m pretty certain we’re not the only family like this. Kids are leaving the family farm for jobs in town and in a long shot, some will return as hobby farmers later in life. The numbers add up pretty quick and it’s no wonder the population of the farming community continues to shrink, in relation to the total population. Farmers are forced to produce more with less and this is where “conventional” methods have come into play. Sure “organic” farming or “the way grandpa used to do things” is romantic, but it’s not always sustainable when the percentage of producers is not growing in this country.

Back to the conversation, my brother responds to the math by suggesting, maybe one of his kids decides to go into farming.

I ask how that’s gonna happen. He says they’ll get interest from exposure, maybe spending the weekend with a relative or something.

Ah ha! That’s it. The only way this kid (who grows up in town with non-ag parents) gains interest in ag production is by outside exposure. It’s my job to invite him to the farm on weekends and summers, spark that interest and feed any inspiration for a future in agriculture.

I’m always prodding for my brothers and sisters to engage in agriculture, and unless I do, how else will they learn? It’s the job of those involved in agriculture to find and feed that interest in others. Unless we agvocate for our cause, find those with interest, and feed that interest, the agriculture community will struggle to grow.

Now I know that part of my agvocate effort is to feed the interest of others to learn about agriculture, share my passion in hopes of inviting others to join me. Even if they find a future in agriculture isn’t for them, at least they’ll have someone to turn to with questions. It kinda seems like a mind game, but then again, if you show interest, of course I want you to come over and join the team. Isn’t that what all advocate efforts look for?

What inspires you to advocate for your cause? Did you find involvement in your passion due to the efforts of someone outside of your immediate family?

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  1. We have a friend who grew up in a farm family but she didn’t want to be in ag. Her dad convinced her to take a few ag classes in college. She ended up graduating with an ag business degree. And is now working for Wrigley in Chicago flying around the world marketing spices for their candy.

    The ag professors in our alma matar always say they have no problem placing ag graduates. The food industry is always expanding.

    Have your brother look into job placement stats for his degree.

  2. I too is the bottom of 5 and only one in agriculture. However, my oldest brother sells crop insurance and starting understand the long term investment in farmland. I get quite sadden that of all the grandkids, my husband and I are the only parents teaching our children the world of ag. I am letting my children choice his or her career but they also need to get their hands dirty and learn to farm. The need to know at best the proper way to manage the farmland without destroying natural resources. Fortunately for me at this time, my kids love the cattle and farming as much as their parents.

  3. Ryan,
    I am from a very rural town in SW Kansas that most of the economy is driven by agriculture in some way, shape, or form. In my graduating class, only two of us came from a farm background and planned on returning to agriculture. I had a friend who had grown up in town and because of a YouTube video became fascinated with fainting goats. So, I found lady from our area who raised fainting goats, contacted her, and arranged a farm visit. Matt and I spent the afternoon at her place and he loved every minute of it. He graduated high school and attended Kansas State University majoring in Animal Science. He is applying for vet school this fall. I don’t think that lady has any idea the impact she made on Matt and how priceless those few hours she spent with us was!
    Our school also did not have an FFA program. I think the impact of programs like FFA is huge and it’s ability to expose kids like Matt to agriculture are a unique opportunity.
    I really enjoyed your post!

  4. I personally am a 6th generation farmer. I do however know several farmers who entered into production ag as a result of some one agvocating. You are dead on right we have to encourage someone in the next generation to continue what we do. Discussing what we do is especially important with the youth of today.

  5. My family has been farming since at least the early 1800’s when we first came to America. Great grandpa’s generation 8 out of 10 kids involved in Ag. His kids where 2 out of 3 their kids one came back decided it wasn’t for him and left. Now my generation I’m only one of 5. We’re the only field that actively discourages people from choosing our career. How many farmers tell their kids to go get a college education and a better job so you won’t have to work as hard, have more money and a easier life? The reason I came back is that in my opinion there is a difference in an easier life and a better life. I wake up every morning go to a job I love and I’ll be able to have my children there with me to teach them the value of hard work and responsibility that people in other careers can’t. Yes it’s harder there are dry years, floods, market drops and equipment breakdowns but its worth it to feel that high from bringing in a good crop or see those newborn calves playing in the fresh green grass on a warm spring day while checking cows on a horse. That’s our challenge to encourage that better life to a new generation instead of the easy life.

  6. Ryan–unfortunately, I think this is pretty typical. In our family, of six daughters & their spouses (my mom & her sister, my mom had two daughters, & her sister had two daughters,) only my mom & I are involved in our ranching/horse industry. The others, while part land-owners, have no interest in it. My ANSI degree from OK State is the only ag related degree although b/w the 12 of us (spouses included,) we have 16 degrees!

  7. I came to agriculture by complete chance. I went to Virginia Tech to be a puppy-and-kitty vet. I had always liked ALL animals, but my parents are from cities in NY and I had NO exposure as a child. My high school in Raleigh, NC did not have an Agriculture class or FFA. I didn’t know anyone in 4-H. But when I got to VT, there was no small animal emphasis, just livestock, poultry, or equine. I picked livestock just because it was most varied. I fell in love, and haven’t looked back.

    Dating someone who grew up on a sheep farm in rural VA gave me some exposure outside of the class/lab setting. I, too, think it’s tragic that many farm kids don’t want to return (he is in dental school and his older brother is an architect). They have one of the oldest flocks to remain in one family in the entire nation, and the fate of their family farm is unknown. I, on the other hand, would KILL to have a farm to inherit. I struggle daily to permeate into a culture and business that I didn’t grow up in. I can’t afford farmland. And as long as “farm kids” give up their farmland and opportunity for another dream, unfortunately your concerns will continue to be a reality. But it’s absolutely worth fighting for, and agvocating for, and you do a spectacular job of it. Keep it up!

  8. I grew up in city life. No one talked about agriculture when I was a kid nor throughout young adulthood. I assumed the farming industry was okay and would always be okay because that’s exactly where all of our meat, fruits and vegetables come from, right? (Plot twist: I later found out I was wrong). I never would have thought real farming was in any danger. My own intrigue and interest spurred as I became more concerned with the foods I was putting into my body and trying to understand what was causing my allergies, etc. Long story short, my interest led me to volunteer for 3 years with and Nonprofit Organization that advocated for agricultural and ecological education geared towards teaching the youth. As the marketing director, I visited farms a lot and my appreciation and concern for agriculture grew exponentially. I’ve recently made a huge decision to switch to a career in agricultural and ecological education, and I’m excited to see where that takes me. Anyway, great post! I’m so glad to have found this blog.

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