Our Thoughts On Agriculture Today.
Posted by Edward Romero on August 16th, 2010
When I was a young boy, I knew I was going to go to college. I did not know what I was going to major in college, but knew I was going. I was the first from my family to go to college and graduate. I did not know anything about college. I guess you could say, that I did not know, what I did not know!
Have you ever heard the saying, “you don’t know that you don’t know?” Sounds like an old cliché. However, that was the truth for me because when I went off to college, I did not even know what questions I should ask. I did not know many things about college, but some how, I managed to stumble my way through it and learn many life lessons along the way. In some respects, I think I learned just as much, if not more, outside of the classroom than I did in it. Studying agriculture was no different.
As I continue to build our business structure for AgForLife, I reflect back on how or what people need to know or want to know to help implement change by recruiting more students into agriculture. I often think why people would be…or are interested in recruiting more students into agriculture. Sometimes I wonder if anyone cares.
Deep down, I know people care.
I know companies care. I know agricultural schools care. I know government (USDA, etc) cares. I know commodity groups care. I know industry professionals care. I know educators care. I know producers care.
In my time of being part of agriculture as a college recruiter, college administrator, and small business owner, I have heard numerous times from many constituents of the need to do something about recruiting more students into agriculture. In fact, research confirms it.
One the bright side, over the last couple of years, we have seen a slight increase in general student interest in agriculture. That is good, but that has not always been the case and we should not rest on our laurels just yet. We have a lot of work to do.
What is sad to me is the lack of minority students considering agriculture as a viable career path. Where are the Hispanic/Latino students? Where are the African American students?
You may ask why that is important.
It is important for many reasons – economically, socially, culturally, and nationally. The Hispanic population is the largest AND youngest minority group in the United States, yet when it comes to Latino students studying agriculture, per capita, they rank dead last of students studying agriculture. These young people need to find good jobs when they grow up too. Many of those young students now will need to go to college when they grow older. Predictions are that in a few short decades, the U.S. as we know it today – racially and ethnically speaking – will be even much different than it is today. Perhaps I can save that topic for another blog. However, suffice to say, we need to begin to think differently about how we will be engaging these young people into our industry in the coming years.
For me, I know why I am so passionate in helping young people through college to study agriculture. It was because I stumbled my way through several majors (as well as college). I never thought I would have majored in agriculture when I was a young boy living on the ranch working long hours out in the middle of nowhere. I also had a perception about agriculture that was not true, but I did not know.
It was not until after college graduation that my eyes were really opened about the vast opportunities in agriculture. In some ways it was a little too late for me, but if we can help reach young people now when they are young, they can make better-informed decisions and not make the same mistakes I did.
When students from Canada and the United States were asked about what influenced them the most in selecting their post-secondary school research in 2004, Edge Interactive Research, found that students placed emphasis on the following:
- One in five students considers schools outside of their country.
- Prospective students apply to three schools.
- School visits and the web are key factors in school research.
- Programs are a primary factor in choosing a school.
- Prospective students want a mix of email and mail communication.
- Prospective students want to hear from university officials at least twice a month.
When students were asked what the primary factors in choosing a school, students in the United States responded:
|2.||Campus Life/ Student Services||86.3%|
|3.||Level of Service||86.3%|
|5.||Reputation of School||83.8%|
If the above data gives us any indication of what students’ value when considering or attending college, should we not begin putting a stronger emphasis on agricultural programs?
I have always believed that we need to do a better job of addressing the opportunities offered in agricultural programs to help students better understand the opportunities they have in our industry and move students (parents, teachers, and counselors) from “not knowing what they don’t know” to “knowing that they know, that they don’t know.” In other words, helping students (and others) realize that they do not know as much as they think they know about contemporary agriculture. Many students think of agriculture, as a dead-end career path with long hours, stoop labor, low wages and working in harsh conditions is the norm. That cannot be farther from the truth.
We need to help students take the first step in helping them begin to open their mind to considering agriculture as a viable career option by showcasing many opportunities available to them.
We are fighting an image problem, and for many people, perceptions are reality.
What are you doing to help fight the negative agricultural image as it relates to agricultural careers? I would be interested in hearing what you are doing to affect change in the agricultural industry. Drop me a note or post your comments on our Facebook page. If you are on Twitter, look us up. Either way, I look forward to hearing from you.
Until next time,
About the Author: Edward Romero is working to address college student recruitment in agriculture and related fields with an emphasis on reaching out to Hispanic and Latino students.