Early in the spring, I received an email from Monsanto, asking if I’d be interested in serving a two-year term on the Grow Rural Education Advisory Council. I'd never heard of the council, so I wasn’t quite sure how to respond.
With a little research, I found out that Monsanto gives away $2.3 million a year (on average) to schools across the country looking to enhance their math or science curriculums. Why on earth would they want me on the advisory board? After talking it over with Sheilah, we decided to find out more. So I replied.
The next day, a Monsanto representative called. Right up front, I told her I wasn’t sure I was the man for the job, having no prior experience with this type of thing. She assured me that was perfectly okay.
The council consisted of 26 men and women from across the country. All were from different agricultural backgrounds. Many, like me, had no experience.
Still on the fence . . .
Still, I wasn’t sure this was something I wanted to do. But I was curious.
So, I asked the lady to tell me a more about the grants and the review process. She gladly did so.
Since 2011 Monsanto has been giving money back to communities for education. A farmer in the community must nominate a school that he or she believes could benefit from one of the grants. That takes place between January and April. Once the school has been nominated, they have until April's end to submit a formal application.
The advisory council comes into play after all applications have been submitted. Each council member is given a set of grants to review, grade and comment on. Then in August, everyone gets together to compare notes and decide which schools receive grants.
Decided to go for it
After I got "off the fence", there was an hour-long conference call explaining how to review each application. I didn’t think an hour was enough. But once the applications arrived in the mail and I began to look at them, I realized I'd learned everything I needed to know.
It wasn’t as painful as I thought it might be. I enjoyed the review process and couldn’t wait to see if other council members would have similar thoughts and comments.
On July 30, I was more than a little nervous getting ready to board a plane bound for St. Louis, Mo., to meet the rest of the Grow Rural Education Advisory council. I found myself wishing – not for the first time – that Sheilah was by my side. But she wasn't able to get off work.
The three days in St. Louis flew by. Meeting all of the other council members was quite an experience – rewarding, relaxing and enjoyable. It felt good to be a part of something that could help get more kids interested in agriculture.
This year, 163 schools across the country received grants. A school in Livingston, Ill., will be receiving $10,000 for an ambient weather station. A school in Lancaster, Pa., will be getting $25,000 for handheld technology to take their learning outside of the classroom.
And those are only two of the 163! I’m already looking forward to next year’s review process!
Mike Reskovac is president of Pennsylvania Corn Growers Association. The Reskovacs farm near Uniontown, Pa. Read all their "Two Hearts, One Harvest" columns in American Agriculturist.
This opinion is not necessarily that of FarmProgress.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.