AgForLife

Navigation

Our Thoughts On Agriculture Today.

Natural versus Unnatural in Agriculture

Posted by Edward Romero on January 30th, 2011

I just read a great blog called Feedstuffs Food Link: Connecting farm to fork, by Dr. Normand St-Pierre explaining the difference between natural selection and unnatural in agriculture. It is a great post that explains in layman’s terms, why natural is not always a good thing. Natural eggs,  natural chicken, etc. may not always be the best. I would encourage you to read his blog to better understand why.  I think he does a great job in explaining his position.  Feel free to post  your comments on his site after reading the blog.

I think you will find the post enlightening and interesting as well as educational.

You can find the blog post here.

Until next time…

(more…)

3 Comments »

Rethinking Agriculture

Posted by Eric Brenner on June 14th, 2010

Back when I was in high school, like many other students, I did not really know what career to pursue. My parents did not really care what I majored in, as long as I went to college; not going was simply not an option. But figuring out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life when I was 16 years old was not an easy endeavor.

But looking back, I was seriously struggling trying to find a career option that I felt passionate about. I looked for school counselors for guidance to help me figure out a career path. However, those options were limited and did not spark the smallest bit of interest. Counselors, teachers, friends, and even my parents always talked about majors like engineering or business management because that is all they knew.

Agriculture was never in the picture or even suggested as an available option because their perception of this field was distorted and limited. Almost 13 years later, with a bachelor’s in Agricultural Systems Management, and a master’s in International Agricultural Development, I can honestly say that I have been blessed and even lucky to have fond my true calling in the agriculture field.

Back then, my knowledge about agriculture was restricted to the production part; raising livestock and crops or farming. I did not know that the agricultural sector had such a colossal amount of majors and careers available. However, my parents nor my school counselors told me about it, because like me, they did not have a clue either. We were all ignorant about the great career opportunities that can be found in this field.

Even for students who had some interest in agriculture, many did not major in this field because there was the perception that in order to be successful, your family had to be directly involved in this field through a business or had land for agriculture activities.

All the wrongful perceptions deterred many students to major in agriculture, and this is a problem that is still latent today. It was not until I came to the U.S. to pursue my college career that I had the opportunity to be exposed to agriculture, and I was able to find my real passion for this field. But even in the U.S, agriculture was misunderstood and wrongfully perceived. By the time I was done with my bachelor’s degree, I came to two very important conclusions: agriculture played a vital role in our daily lives, and that most people were oblivious to this fact.

In developing countries like Costa Rica, the development and expansion of the agricultural sector can create more stable economies and economic growth. There is a need to increase the amount of agriculture professionals in the job market and students into agricultural careers. The problem is how to attract more people into agriculture, when there is a lack of understanding and information for this field.

For those of us involved in this field, we have not been very successful capturing potential students into ag majors. Agriculture has a stigma that it is a dead-end career with low wages, and few opportunities. It is time to rethink how we recruit more students, including minorities, and show them that agriculture is a dynamic, innovative, exciting, and vibrant field full of opportunities that go beyond the production sector.  And even for the production sector, which is a fundamental component of agriculture, we can show how it is perpetually changing by the introduction of new technologies to solve more complex challenges.

Even though production represents only 2% of the employment opportunities in agriculture, we have to find better ways to keep feeding a fast growing World.

One of the goals in AgForLife is to keep up with rapid changing times where younger generations of students are becoming more technologically savvy. The integration of these technologies are not only necessary to attract more students, but also to improve agricultural processes. Our vision is to change the perceptions of agriculture through education, technology, and innovation. You can be part of a concept that will change how people perceive agriculture. Now, the question is if you are going to join us in pursuing this quest?

Until next time, have a great week.

2 Comments »

Contemporary Agriculture: What is it?

Posted by Edward Romero on June 10th, 2010

Literature is littered with research about how students perceive agriculture to be limiting and with few career opportunities outside of production agriculture leading a successful life.  There is a critical need to better convey the vast array of opportunities in agriculture, food, and life sciences by identifying systems, industries, and careers in or associated with the agricultural industry in order to help the general population better understand the impact of agriculture in our society.  One part of the AgForLife website is to help people better understand the broad definition of agriculture and the many opportunities related to the industry.

Agriculture:  The need for a new definition.

As evidenced by the dwindling acres of farm land in production in the United States, fewer and fewer people are considering careers in contemporary agriculture due to the misconception of limited opportunities in agriculture.  Today, many people still perceive that agriculture refers only to production agriculture—the raising of livestock and crops or farming and rarely, if ever, know about the many different segments of industry that are linked to contemporary agriculture, such as natural resources and the environment or know the many service industries that help our agriculturists in financial planning, lending, insurance, commodity trading, or agricultural communications to name a few.  In addition, people have little knowledge about how equipment systems and chemical and pharmaceutical systems are part of the agricultural industry.  While people have a sense of how the animal and plant related system is part of agriculture, the population at large rarely understands the implications of how life sciences, sales and distribution services, research and development, and marketing and manufacturing play a role in agriculture.

Old Perception, New Reality

The perception of agriculture by the general public is largely still visualized as primarily farming and ranching or linked primarily to production agriculture.  Allowing the public, parents, teachers, and students to continue to have a misconceived notion or negative perception about the true meaning of contemporary agriculture is detrimental to our industry and is inaccurate at best.

Agriculture is defined by the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary (2000) as “the science, art, or practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock and in varying degrees the preparation and marketing of the resulting products: Farming.”  While the above definition of agriculture is true, contemporary agriculture is also inclusive of other practices and systems that more broadly define what the new agricultural industries represent.  Stated broadly, plants and animals, including soil cultivation, livestock and crop management, and the activities of processing and marketing, include a range of technologies associated with their production and by-products.  One term to convey the technologies that interconnect the inputs and outputs of the farming sector is agribusiness.  To this degree, agriculture can include the wide range of activities in manufacturing and distribution used in farming that is closely associated with industrial inputs.  In addition, farm production (crops, animals, animal products and by-products which are provided to the consumer) is all part of the agriculture cycle. 

The National Research Council’s definition of agriculture is broader than Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary in order to include a more accurate representation of contemporary agriculture due to technological and structural changes.  The National Research Council (1988) defines “agriculture” broadly as to:

…encompass the production of agricultural commodities, including food, fiber, wood products, horticultural crops, and other plant and animals products.  The terms also include the financing, processing, marketing, and distribution of agricultural products; farm production supply and service industries; health, nutrition, and food consumption; the use and conservation of land and water resources; development and maintenance of recreational resources; and related economic, sociological, political, environmental, and cultural characteristics of the food and fiber system.

Despite the differences in definitions, one thing is certain, there is a vast array of systems, industries, and careers that agriculture touches or impacts on a daily basis and many opportunities are available to us due to the large economic impact of agriculture. While traditional agricultural production is still very much at the core of agriculture, over the last several decades, agriculture has continued to expand it’s influence in our daily lives.

For more information, read about it on the AgForLife website. We welcome your comments and thoughts on this topic.

Until next week.

Adios!

4 Comments »

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!

11 Comments »

Twitter