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Is Help On The Way?

Posted by Edward Romero on July 28th, 2010

Well, it has been a few weeks since I last posted a blog on this site.  Mr. Eric Brenner, graduate student from Costa Rica, posted some of his internship experiences on this blog while abroad. From time-to-time, he will continue to post on here as well.  I guess it is fair to say that he and I will tag-team the blog as we perfect our craft of blogging.   I am a student of this craft and still trying to sort out how to write effective blogs that are of interest, but most importantly, provide content that is relevant to the diverse group of readers we have. Please be patient, but also do not be shy in giving us feedback.

I am amazed at how much feedback and interest I have been receiving since my last blog about the need to recruit more students into agriculture. We have been receiving a steady stream of emails and phone calls regarding our site, as well as our social media efforts.  It is amazing to me, although I should not be surprised, how many people are truly interested and understand some of the challenges facing the industry, as it relates to recruiting challenges we face in agriculture.  We are unlike any other discipline, such as engineering, business, or education, for instance, when it comes to recruiting.

Why, you ask?

Because of perception! Unfortunately, a negative perception about agriculture and the lack of opportunities is a major reason why many students do not consider agriculture as a viable career path. Unfortunately, not only students view agriculture that way, but research says so do parents, counselors, teachers, and many others not directly involved in contemporary agriculture. We need to work on changing that negative perception.

There is no silver bullet. It is a collective approach.  I think that is why I get so excited when people call me and share their ideas and thoughts about how to recruit more students into agriculture.  People are thinking about it. That is the first step.

For instance, just last week I had a very interesting conversation with a faculty member at Washington State University who shared the same philosophy of trying to recruit students into agriculture using a very innovative approach.  After a 60-minute phone call, we surmised the need to continue to find ways of working together to bring some of our ideas to fruition.  I am excited about the opportunity.

Coast to coast, the interest is strong of trying to recruit more students into agriculture. Over the last month, I have been fortunate to “sit-in” on several phone conferences regarding a NASA proposal and grant in developing some formal learning modules (experiences) in the classroom in Florida using extra-celestial agriculture and lunar habitation. Very interesting and cool ideas and suggestions were discussed during several phone conversations with a group of very talented and creative individuals.  I wish them much success with their proposal and hope they are funded to carryout their project. Students will be excited to take part in some of those activities mentioned if the program is funded.

Another topic on peoples minds are along the same lines of recruiting students, but focusing their efforts on targeting students from underrepresented groups, which is sorely needed in agriculture.  I had an opportunity to learn of how a land grant university in the Southwestern United States is innovatively planning to reach out to students from underrepresented groups.  Their proposal will include recruitment, curriculum and instructional approaches, some cool experiential experiences, and a mentoring component.  Their plan is to develop a conduit to developing a pipeline of students into the agricultural teaching profession by allowing students in their cohort group to experience some professional development opportunities as well as critical thinking and service learning partnerships while in their program.  I wish them luck with their proposal and look forward to learning more as the federal funding cycle quickly approaches.

In addition, to universities and academia interested in recruiting more students into agriculture, the federal government is also very interested in this effort. The USDA, for years, has been working on building a pipeline of students into the agricultural profession as well.  One can argue both ways whether they have been successful.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been visiting with a USDA agency in Kansas City, Missouri about exploring ways to recruit diverse candidates, who have agricultural backgrounds, into their agency.  Within the next few years, many agencies in the federal government, USDA specifically in this case (others are affected as well), will be losing employees due to baby boomers retiring.

Guess what? They need to fill those positions as well, in addition to the many other positions in industry, corporate America, and academia.  Currently, the demand is far greater than the supply.

You have probably heard me say this before, but it is worth repeating. In 2008, there were 16 million UNDERGRADUATE students studying in the United States – all disciplines, all colleges and universities included. However, according to the Food and Agricultural Education Information System, only 251,000 students were studying agriculture or a related field. More information can be found here.

That is a measly 1.5% of the undergraduate student population in the agricultural pipeline.  To make matters worse, that is not the final tally. Why, you might ask. Well, we are only talking ATTENDING College we are not talking GRADUATION.  Our educational system loses students for a variety of reasons that never complete their academic programs. Graduation numbers are always lower due to a variety of retention issues. Therefore, rest assured, the number is less then 1.5% of undergraduate students in the agricultural pipeline.

How much lower?  Not sure.  I wanted to get a peaceful nights rest in order to continue tackling this problem in the morning!

Seriously, we need help. We need YOUR help. We would like to hear your thoughts on this issue. How can you make a difference?

2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Is Help On The Way?”


  1. Kacie Tuzzolo

    Your article is very informative. Thanks for the info.


  2. world art

    I’m extremely impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself? Anyway keep up the excellent quality writing, it is rare to see a great blog like this one these days..

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