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Podcast: Latinos in Agriculture Interview

Posted by Edward Romero on July 10th, 2011

Nancy O’Mallon from About Harvest recorded a podcast interview with Edward Romero, Latinos in Agriculture Leaders Forum co-organizer, which will be held in San Antonio on October 27 & 28, 2011 at the El Tropicano Riverwalk hotel.  Click this link to listen to the interview.

The event is shaping up nicely. If you have not registered yet, go to the Latinos in Agriculture website for more information and register for the forum.  Registration is limited to the first 150 registrants.

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Latinos in Agriculture Leaders Forum

Posted by Edward Romero on June 19th, 2011

AgForLife, LLC and TCTS Global, LLC have partnered to organize the Latinos in Agriculture Leaders Forum, specifically called, Latinos in Agriculture: A Leaders Forum on Capitalizing Hispanic Talent, which will be in San Antonio, Texas at the El Tropicano Riverwalk hotel on October 27 & 28, 2011.

AgForLife and TCTS Global hopes to connect industry, government, and education in order to begin an open dialogue about some of the barriers, opportunities, and challenges in recruiting Latinos into Agriculture. For years, government and higher education have been working at trying to entice minorities into agriculture but with limited success.  Some agricultural related companies have been working hard to find a diverse and qualified applicant pool as well, but the problem lies in that there are very few Hispanics enrolling in agricultural related degrees in colleges in the United States. In 2008, only 11,353 or 4.5 percent of the 251,422 college students enrolled in an agricultural or related degree program were Hispanic/Latino.  In addition, many Latinos view agriculture as a dead-end career where only the negative perceptions of hard work, long hours, stoop labor, low wages, and working in harsh conditions are the norm. This negative perception will continue to challenge us in the coming years if not addressed.

What is the purpose of the leadership forum?

  • To explore deliberate approaches in connecting agricultural stakeholders to improve Latino/Hispanic representation in Agriculture.
  • To inform industry, government, and academia of the huge potential in creating a Latino/Hispanic pipeline of future students, employees, and consumers.
  • To develop and establish a post-conference network of participants interested in addressing some of the challenges in the different market segments related to students, universities, and businesses.

What are the goals of the workshop?

  • To share recruiting strategies and best practices from industry, government, and academia on how to increase the Latino/Hispanic student representation into the educational pipeline for agriculture and related fields.
  • To allow participants the opportunity to find out more about Latinos/Hispanics and ask what they always wanted to know but were afraid to ask.
  • To explore the possibility of establishing an annual event aimed at continuing to address the emerging Latino population and how it relates to the potential impact it can have on the future of Agriculture and related industries.

Participants in the 2011 Latinos in Agriculture Leaders Forum will benefit from the opportunity to network and meet with leaders from industry, government and academia that see the value and have the vision of the opportunity in addressing the impact Latinos can have on the future of Agriculture.

Everyone that attends the forum will walk away with strategies and best practices on how to tap into this emerging demographic and how to better meet the challenge of creating a Latino/Hispanic pipeline of future students, employees, and consumers.

The Latinos in Agriculture Leaders Forum early registration is open until September 16, 2011 and is $295.00 per person and is limited to the first 150 registrants. After September 16, 2011, the forum registration is $350.00.  Registration includes three breaks, continental breakfast, lunch, welcome reception and conference materials.

For those on planning to attend, reserve your hotel room at the El Tropicano Riverwalk hotel as soon as possible as only a limited block of rooms are reserved.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.  San Antonio will be nice in October. We hope to see you there.

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Agriculture and Nonconformity: A thread that binds us

Posted by Edward Romero on December 1st, 2010

Photo by Pave M.

Thanks for your patience. It’s been way too long since my last blog post, and yet, you are gracious enough to stop by and read this latest post. For those of you who follow, thanks for the continued support.

For those of you who just stumbled into the AgForLife blog for the very first time, I would encourage you to sign up with the RSS Feed, which you can find at the upper left part of the page. For those of you who read my blogs (when I post), share it with your friends. Post it on Twitter. Share it on Facebook. Help me get the AgForLife name out there.

I am not even sure where I should start since I have so many things I want to say, but here we go…

Since my last post, I have traveled, moderated a panel for college students from all over the country, started a new project,  which we will be announcing the first quarter of 2011, and yet, I feel like I have let all my readers down by not posting religiously like I was told I should.

So be it…not because I don’t value those who support AgForLife, but because I am not the typical blogger who posts at designated days or times of the week. I believe you should blog when you have something important to say or share, not just blog because it’s “cool” to do so like the zillion other bloggers posting on the internet with useless content.

I, like many others, subscribe to a number of different blogs that I read often, for the most part, when they publish their blogs.  In doing so, I am going to do something I rarely do – endorse someone who inspires me.

Chris doesn’t even know me. We’ve never met. He doesn’t even know I exist. But Chris is an inspiration to me. Chris talks about different things but for the most part, his blog is centered around three areas: Life, Work, and Travel.

Oh and did I mention, he helps people take over the world. (His words, not mine!)

You see, he’s traveled to 150 countries and counting. No, he’s not an inspiration because of his travels. He’s an inspiration because his writes about The Art of Non-Conformity. Yeah, that’s right, non-conforming; unconventional methods of work.

Chris defines nonconformity as “a lack of orthodoxy in thoughts or beliefs” or “the refusal to accept established customs, attitudes, or ideas.”

In his blogs he writes with “the conviction that you don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to” which is refreshing and inviting. So many blogs out there are about status quo.

He also writes about entrepreneurship and unconventional work and stresses the importance of having fun while the work is meaningful.

And of course, he talks about his travels.

The real reason his posts are such an inspiration is because when we first started AgForLife, people doubted us. They didn’t or couldn’t see our vision. Some people still can’t.  People didn’t have faith in us. Even today, many people don’t think our approach is logical. And that’s okay.

I got tired of sharing our strategy. I got tired of people telling me it couldn’t be done. I countered…I think it can!  So we set out to try and make a positive impact in the agricultural industry.  I can honestly say, when I finished my doctorate, I never thought I would be the person in the driver’s seat. I naively thought someone else was already doing what we thought should be done.  But I guess I was wrong.

We’re not there yet, but everyday we move a little closer to achieving our business goals. I can’t tell you when we’ll get there, but I know everyday opens many new doors and those who are serious about helping, continue to find us.

You see…I am a realist at heart, but an optimist to the core. Today, I rarely share my strategies with anyone outside my support group, unless people are serious enough to want to learn more. I am told to ignore people who tell me “you can’t.” I think my supporters are right on!

So why am I telling you about Chris? Why am I telling you about my story?

Well, it’s simple. Chris is an inspiration because I believe like he does. I have come to the realization that I too look at unconventional ways at approaching a problem.  I guess you can say I am a non-conformist at heart. I see unconventional ways of approaching established customs or ideas in agriculture from a student recruitment perspective. The approach we are taking is unconventional – no doubt – but damn sure meaningful.

According to Jeffrey Gitomer, “every obstacle presents an opportunity, if you’re looking for it.” I think he’s right.

The challenge I am talking about is the lack of students entering agriculture and the many related fields of study available in many agricultural colleges across this country.  What’s even more sobering is the lack of minority students considering agriculture.

Where are they? Is any one addressing this issue? So far, I’ve yet to find anyone who dares say they do.

In 2008, only 1.49% of undergraduate students of the 16 million plus ENROLLED (not graduated) in 2-year and 4-year schools in the U.S., were studying agriculture or some related field. That’s a measly 251,000 students.

In that same year, of those 251,000 students in agriculture or some related field, only 4.5% (11.535) were Latino or Hispanic and Black student enrollment was not much better at 5.6% (13,972).

Is this a problem for agriculture – absolutely – especially with the rapidly changing demographics?  Is there an opportunity here to help out – you bet! As we continue working on our business model and product development, I am confident we will be able to make strides in helping students see the many opportunities in agriculture. It will take time, but I think we can do it, and in the end, we all win!

After all, Chris Guillebeau in his blog, The Art of Non-Conformity says we can; and that is good enough for me.

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Agriculture Program: To do or not to do?

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!

Huh?

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:

1. Program 97.0%
2. Campus Life/ Student Services 86.3%
3. Level of Service 86.3%
4. Scholarships/Financial Aid 84.1%
5. Reputation of School 83.8%
6. Location 82.2%
7. Tuition Cost 80.3%

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,

Adios!

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AgForLife, LLC Established to Address Agricultural Student Recruiting Woes

Posted by Edward Romero on May 17th, 2010

Agriculture.

What is it about agriculture that is so intriguing for some people and not even considered by others? After all, agriculture is the lifeblood of our society.  It is because of agriculture that we are able to enjoy many of the joys of life.  Just about everything we touch and definitely everything we eat comes from agriculture.

A small number of today’s undergraduate students in college are studying agriculture. Only 1.5% of the undergraduate college students are studying some form of agriculture in the United States.

Why?

Well, it is for a number of reasons.  Based on a 2005 national study to evaluate the different factors affecting admission and matriculation of high school students in the United States into college programs related to agriculture sciences, 41% of the students had a misconception or image about agricultural sciences; 33% lacked knowledge about employment opportunities; and 22% lacked knowledge about fields of study.

What are we doing to address this issue?  More importantly, who is doing something about it?

There are pockets of people, organizations, companies and a sprinkling of universities trying to address this problem, but we really are not making the strides we should be making given our growing population and changing demographics. Even more so, given the diverse career opportunities in agriculture, students are not enrolling into agricultural majors in the numbers you would think.

Companies are looking for larger pools of applicants in college. They are also looking for more students from underrepresented groups, but they are having a hard time finding large minority applicant student-pools to choose from in universities and colleges across the country studying agriculture.

Universities are constantly challenged in trying to recruit more students into their schools but they too are struggling in recruiting more minority students, especially Hispanics, and students in general into their agricultural programs. The issue of recruiting more students into agriculture – especially minority students – has been a long-standing issue. When I graduated from high school this was a problem.  Today, almost 25 years later, we are still dealing with this problem and it is not going away any time soon.  Many of the issues we faced 25 years ago, we are still facing today, such as those factors mentioned above from the 2005 national study.  We need to address this issue proactively; otherwise, I believe it is going to hurt the agricultural industry.

Research shows that many Hispanic students (parents and high school counselors included) steer away from agriculture because of the perception that agriculture only equates to a dead-end career where only the negative perceptions of hard work, long hours, stoop labor, low wages, and working in harsh conditions are the norm. Perhaps this is true if you work in the production agricultural sector.  However, less than 2% of our employment opportunities in agriculture are in production agriculture – farming and ranching.

So what are we doing about it?

In 2004, a concept was shared with a group of industry representatives in St. Louis, Missouri to address some of the above concerns.  During the next 18 months, Dr. Edward W. Romero and Pablo Ramirez, a graduate student pursuing a Masters in Agribusiness, developed a framework to address this problem and a unique design and structure was born in what has become known as the AgForLife Map.

  • The AgForLife Map is utilized to help educate the general public about the various opportunities related to, but not limited to, occupational and career opportunities in agriculture, food and life sciences.
  • The AgForLife Map is an innovative process which helps in the recruitment of students interested in the agriculture, food and life sciences.
  • The two-dimensional AgForLife Map aides in the visualization and guiding students into employment opportunities and careers.
  • The Map aids in understanding the integration of multiple systems and the route taken for inputs, such as materials and information to reach the consumer as an output.
  • The AgForLife Map will assist students with knowledge in order to make informed decisions about multiple career paths and opportunities in the agriculture, food, and life sciences.

The AgForLife concept is derived from the belief in which a successful and vibrant agricultural industry relies on human capital. The ‘chain’ starts with well-educated and informed individuals knowledgeable about how agriculture plays a vital role in our daily lives.

In order to address areas such as career and employment opportunities in industry and government as well as student recruitment by agricultural schools, a small start-up company was formed in 2009, called AgForLife, LLC.  It is grounded in the AgForLife concept and framework and was formed to begin to directly address issues facing agriculture by utilizing unique and innovative methods to reach students, primarily high school and college age students.  In short, the company will be working to identify unique, non-traditional approaches using innovation and technology to address problems facing agricultural student recruiting today and within the coming decades, especially given the dramatic demographic shift in certain groups. You can learn more about their vision here.

If you share our concern as well as our vision, we encourage you to become involved. You may already be doing something in this area. Perhaps you have a blog, or you have a Facebook Group or Page advocating agriculture.  As a first step, we encourage you to join our Facebook Group or Page.  You can connect with us through a variety of social media sites found on our website.

In upcoming weekly AgForLife blogs, we will be blogging about a variety of topics dealing with agricultural student recruiting, minority student issues, careers, employment opportunities, and a variety of other agricultural related topics.  If you have ideas or would like to share your comments on future topics, please connect with us. We would enjoy hearing from you.

Until next week, best wishes for a fun and productive week.

Adios!

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