Often overlooked by students as a potential field of study, the agriculture and agrochemicals industry is in fact always in need of bright, young minds to develop new farming technologies and methodologies to keep pace with the world’s growing population.
Agriculture requires regular innovation. The more food a farmer can grow, the more food there is to be shared among the global population. And the pace of that innovation depends on the quality of the talent in the industry.
On the one hand, stories about young Americans like Sawyer Phillips—a high school senior who plans on studying agriculture in college—indicate that there is still a reasonable degree of interest in farming among at least some youths. That said, Phillips grew up on a family farm. He has firsthand knowledge about the realities of the industry.
Not all students are so fortunate. Although their particular strengths and passions may make them ideal candidates for a degree in agriculture, they’ve likely been deprived of the opportunity to learn about this field. Thus, they may never pursue the careers they’re most suited to. Everyone is worse off for it.
It’s important for anyone currently working in the industry to remember this. It’s also important to look for ways to educate those who might otherwise not have the chance to about the many different types of jobs available to them in the fields of agriculture or agrochemicals.
For example, educators at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln recently organized an expo designed to teach younger students about the connection between science and agriculture. Rather than lecturing to them about the important role scientists play in the industry, the instructors designed the expo to be an interactive experience, likely because today’s youth are exposed to more exciting forms of stimuli than ever before. Due to the constant access to TV, video games, and smartphones, lessons are more apt to succeed when they’re delivered in a hands-on manner. That was likely the thinking behind this expo, and it’s the kind of thinking that will help those interested in teaching children about farming.
Luckily, this shift towards new, stimulating approaches to pedagogy is perfect for teaching agriculture. Whether you’re out in the field testing a new agrochemical, working at a lab to develop stronger fertilizer, or engineering a more efficient tractor, by its very nature the work demands a direct approach.
In regions where universities offer prominent agriculture degree programs, educators and other members of the industry should consider organizing expos similar to the one held by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. For event planners, it’s important to remember that the more interactive the expo is, the easier it will be to demonstrate to students just how interesting farming can be.
For those who don’t have the time or resources to organize a full event, there are still other ways for schools to reach out to young people. While some schools may not have any faculty members well-versed enough in agriculture to design and implement lessons on the subject, members of the industry can help by contacting local schools in their area. They can explain who they are, outline the benefits children enjoy when they learn about agriculture, and offer to help create curricula or organize a program designed to give students a more thorough understanding of farming.
Perhaps the school, with help from someone in the industry, can host an agriculture-themed science fair. With the right resources, they might create a club for students interested in learning more about farming outside of school.
There are many ways in which educators, farmers, and everyone else involved in agriculture can help young people better understand the types of opportunities available to them in this field. Those who work in the industry already know how important it is to keep attracting young, dedicated people. By collaborating with like-minded individuals, they’ll be doing their part to ensure that farms continue to thrive well into the future.