I recently attended the AgLaunch Future of Ag Field Day at the Agricenter International in Memphis. It was a day spent on the farm looking at research plots and listening to innovators and leaders, acknowledging that we need to, and are, looking for ways to enhance the technology and innovation in agriculture.
But, what struck me most, were the young people in the audience, some listening more than others, but all involved in the proceedings of the day and being exposed, like few in their generation are, to the art and science of growing food and fiber.
I am impressed with Agricenter’s focus. Their newly branded mission statement is: To advance knowledge and understanding of agriculture.
While that has always been the goal of the Agricenter, it is nice to see it put in such a simple, concise manner. They know their focus and have done a great job directing their research and education with that in mind.
I have been able to get involved in several of the center’s education ventures and have been impressed with the dedication of the administrators and the program directors as they bring the face of agriculture to groups that know nothing about agriculture or have a widely skewed view of modern ag.
I’ve been able to present to elementary school kids and high schoolers at the center. There is nothing better than seeing the light go on in someone’s eyes as you talk about the unknown relationship each one has to agriculture. It’s like bringing them into the fold and making them one of us.
At the field day, a group of high schoolers fidgeted in their chairs as the speakers spoke about rural development or regional innovation clusters. Both, spell binding topics for me, but for a 10th grader, not so much.
Once in the field, it seems their pulses quickened. Real, tangible interest was obvious as they asked questions and touched heads of sorghum or watched drones flying over a field collecting data.
The ag community has done a good job educating youth through Extension programs, Ag in the Classroom, 4-H, FFA and even private on-farm education ventures. But the truth is, some of us in the ag trenches could do better to bring ag to those who have never been exposed to it.
The Agricenter works to do that. Education is one of their top goals and they make a point of bringing ag to inner-city kids who would otherwise never see a tractor operate in a field or touch a live farm animal. It’s fun to watch them squeal as they touch a pig or stroke the coat of a horse.
Those experiences last a lifetime and have been known to inspire kids who have never been on a farm to make it a way of life. We need more of that.