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Commentary: A Different Perspective on the Future of Agriculture

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At Hoosier Ag Today this summer, we had the opportunity to have former FFA state officer Claire Baney as our intern. She was involved in all aspects of the network, and we hope learned a good deal about agricultural communications. As part of her experience, I wanted her to share her vision of the future of our industry through this weekly column. – Gary Truitt

 

Building Up the Future

By Claire Baney

“I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds,” the first line of The FFA Creed.  As a past FFA member, incoming Purdue University College of Agriculture student, and future agriculture leader, I have identified with and proclaimed this very belief.  A belief in the future of our industry based on authentic actions, as opposed to “building castles in the sky.” But what does the future of agriculture look like and what constructive steps must we take to ensure a successful life for our industry? To lay a strong foundation for the future, we must capitalize on our current strengths and resources, develop a narrative, and invest in our youth.

As a young person, I believe in the value of innovations like the interweaving of technology and farming. Within such modernizations are the power to unlock yield potentials, cultivate robust research and development practices, and foster environmental sustainability. However, to fully capitalize on their clout, let us focus on the continued enrichment of these methods to reinforce their relevance in our ever-growing, progressive world. I am excited about the future of agriculture, and I praise its principles and conduct. Even as hardships arise on a practical level, the faith of the farmer and advocate lead the charge in “rising up from the ashes.” I admire agriculture’s self-reliance and devotion to supporting others. In my opinion, agriculture is the epitome of a servant-leader from an industry standpoint. But these are just a short list of our industry’s structural strong-suits. It is strengths like this that we can and must continue for a bright tomorrow.

Within any ambitious, engaging organization or industry, there is a vision present. A vision that paints a detailed picture defining its values, mission, goals, and background. In other words, it paints its story. Agriculture is most certainly an ambitious, engaging industry that in recent years has fixated on telling its story to all walks of life. To do so, an overarching vision has matched the industry with a voice, mobilized agriculturalists, and connected the public with a larger understanding of agriculture. Just like our industry has initiated such a vision, we can do the same. In fact, designing our own personal vision to craft, what I like to call, a narrative deems more powerful than a message we didn’t individually construct. Establishing our own narrative garners a fortified, intrinsic buy-in from ourselves to further support agriculture while setting an example for others to follow, thus making a larger, more powerful impact on the future.

Upon creating a narrative and setting an example, those practices can be used to inspire youth. Across the United States, agricultural education provides students with a chance to immerse themselves in agriculture. However, there are many areas where this branch of education is not offered. As supporters of the agricultural industry, we can promote and assist existing agricultural education programs and FFA chapters in our own community while also seeking to present the same opportunity to students who are unable to enjoy agricultural education. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, there are approximately 60,000 job openings in agriculture every year with about 25,000 of those jobs going unfilled. By actively exploring ways to tap into our youth and exposing even the urban student to agriculture, imagine the immense growth we could see in our industry’s support-system! Not to mention, how we could close a labor shortage of 25,000 jobs. Coming from a girl who grew up 30 minutes outside of downtown Indianapolis (not in a rural area), I had an innate love for animals as many kids do. After discovering their connection to agriculture, I translated my love for animals into a love for the industry and since have continuously found ways to share that with others. Because someone allowed the opportunity for me to be involved, I was able to find what excited me while becoming an avid supporter for agriculture. By championing stories like this and investing in today’s youth, we can truly build up and sustain our industry for the tomorrow’s future.

A strength of the agricultural industry is its mindful outlook toward the future and constant drive to innovate and improve. With making the most of our present capital and skillsets, shaping our own story, and supporting our students, we CAN ensure a successful future for agriculture. The power to invigorate our industry is right before us. We are just asked to take the first step to in putting action to the solid futures we’re building. As Henry David Thoreau encouraged, we must continue to place the foundations under the “castles we have built in the sky.” “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”