Much attention is rightly given our young crops. We plant into measured soil temperatures while testing for specific nutrient content; we pre-irrigate to give those plants a good head-start, then we add just the right amount of water and nutrients throughout the lifecycle to ensure a profitable harvest.
Are we doing the same with our next "crop" of agricultural communicators and advocates? Are we feeding and training them to blossom? Are we building a sustainable agricultural heritage?
It does not happen often, but I was recently contacted by a college student looking for information that could give her direction as she nears closure in a chapter of academic studies that could propel her into a role of ag communications.
Not everyone is cut out to be a teacher. For those bent towards introspection and thinking, stepping out of that role occasionally to teach or coach a young person with honest questions is rewarding beyond measure.
A similar unsolicited request came to me several years ago from another college student seeking my thoughts on agricultural issues for a project she would undertake because of what I do. It helped that her parents knew me and spoke highly of me.
There has also been the occasional invitation to speak to a college class about what I do as an ag journalist. With these experiences I'm learning a value in helping others chart a life path in ways I was not exposed to at that age.
Credit social media for the contacts. Followers who see what I'm a part of with Western Farm Press and ag communications used the platform in ways I never imagined at their age. To that extent I've become an influencer, which bears much responsibility.
This student already has a firm foundation upon which to base her life quest. Her previous involvement with FFA, what she is learning from college professors and others will guide her well. All I could do once discovering her background was affirm that she appears to be on a good path towards her goals and cheer her on.
After suggesting that she is in great company with names we both know, I tried to leave her with the idea that good written and oral communications will be critical in her endeavors. These skills are critical to life in general, and too often ignored in a world that chooses to shout at one another. Helping those outside of the community of agriculture understand its issues and why we believe they are important is a common goal of ours. I wish her well.
We can all learn from the willingness of students like these who actively seek knowledge and improvement. Learning does not stop once we reach a certain age, status, or position in life. Perhaps this was the idea behind what my late grandfather used to tell us kids: "always learn something new every day."
In other words: "never stop learning."