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Palmyra FFA member wins Larry Harper Young Writers Contest

Web deck: About 200 essays were written on the topic of breaking down barriers to ag entry.

May 3, 2024

3 Min Read
Tegan Herold of Palmyra FFA
ALL SMILES: Tegan Herold took top honors for the Larry Harper Young Writers Contest, sponsored by Missouri Ruralist. Missouri FFA Association

Editor’s note: Each year, Missouri Ruralist sponsors the Larry Harper Young Writers Contest. This year, we asked FFA members to discuss what they feel are the barriers the next generation faces when trying to enter the agriculture industry. Winners were announced April 17 at the 96th Missouri State FFA Convention. Here is the top essay from the contest:

by Tegan Herold

For the past several decades, the number of farmers in the United States has been steadily declining. There are barriers that are keeping people from becoming farmers. These barriers are the growth of AI technology, urban expansion and a decrease in usable farmland. If things do not change, then FFA, Future Farmers of America, will have no future. 

For years now, farmers have been using computerized technology to help run their farms more easily, but what will happen if the farms become completely robotic?

The 21st century is the Digital Age, meaning we are making constant technological improvements, one of those being AI technology. AI technology helps to lighten the workload of farmers by completing tasks such as planting, weeding and watering. Has this technology gone too far?

“Technology has already replaced agricultural workers — to an extent. Robots cannot thoroughly do what human workers do. However, the demand for agricultural workers isn’t being met, which means that industries need someone or something to replace them.” (Flynn, Oct. 20, 2021).

AI won't necessarily take farmer’s jobs, but if the number of farmers declines, AI will have to take their jobs. If we want to continue to have human farmers, it is our responsibility to foster new generations of ag-loving and hardworking people to do these jobs.

As technology advances, so does society. No matter how many farmers there are, there has to be land available for farming.

By 2050, the U.S. population is expected to grow by 56 million. More people means more houses, more houses means less farmland, and less farmland means fewer farmers.

One FFA chapter alone can't change the urbanization of America, but together they can. Chapters that have farming plots can implement a land trust. A land trust is a private, nonprofit organization that protects farmland and ensures it is used for farming and farming only.

Another way to protect land is agricultural conservation easements. These are deeds that farmers can voluntarily place on their property and will protect the property from ever being used for building housing. If we protect farmland, then we protect our jobs as farmers. 

We can protect our current farmland, but we can't protect what we have already lost. Much of the land that once was usable farmland has been either used to build new cityscapes or harmed by pollution such as groundwater chemical leaching, smog and acid rain.

Groundwater leaching is when dangerous chemicals leach out of waste materials in landfills and end up in groundwater and soil. Smog and acid rain are caused by nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide being released into the air by vehicles and factories.

Chapters can do their part in helping minimize pollution by putting recycling bins in places that don't have them and doing community service by cleaning up trash around their town and parks.

The number of farmers is decreasing, and if action is not taken, it will decline. Jobs in agriculture are being affected by AI technology, the growth of an urban society and usable farmland being ruined by pollution. As the FFA members, it is our job to protect our nation's farmland and to teach younger generations to care for the land.

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