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Ushering in agriculture’s next generation of leaders
by Brandon Kern
More and more young people are pursuing higher education degrees in agriculture. In turn, our industry is reaping the benefits of a workforce with diverse experience, higher levels of technological expertise and hands-on experience that will help us tackle agriculture’s next set of challenges.
Most people think about Ohio’s land grant university when they think of agricultural education. Why wouldn’t they? Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) serves thousands of students, teaching and mentoring them in areas ranging from agricultural communication to plant pathology. However, other programs across the state also are helping usher in agriculture’s next generation of leaders. Wilmington College, University of Findlay and Wright State University, among others, all provide programs directly related to agriculture. This all adds up to more opportunities for young people to develop the skills they need to work in Ohio’s largest industry.
I recently had the chance to visit two campuses that are offering these important agriculture programs. The first was a tour with congressional staffers of the Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI) and Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) - Ohio State’s Wooster campus. It is clear why ATI is the nation’s No. 1 issuer of two-year degrees in agriculture. Confident men and women told us story after story of their involvement in key research projects while pursuing their degrees. The research they are doing is the real deal, including using bio products to create rubber alternatives, operating an anaerobic digester and developing nutritionally enhanced feedstock.
At Wright State University’s Lake Campus in Celina, officials are working to provide more access to agricultural programs. The university is now offering students the ability to pursue a concentration in agriculture as a part of both their Associate of Technical Studies and their Bachelor of Applied Science degrees. Plans are in place to add a faculty member to teach food science courses in the near future. Providing access close to home for those living in the agriculturally rich western Ohio region will surely help create new job opportunities there.
The result of having these programs are graduates with hands-on experience in everything from helping farms produce their own energy to graduates who have conducted research to improve crop yields and pest control, disease prevention and enhanced livestock nutrition. That’s why during the most recent state budget process among my highest priorities was to advocate on behalf of Farm Bureau members for adequate funding of these programs. It will be increasingly important for Farm Bureau to support leaders of these programs and continue to advocate for them in the future. It can only help agriculture become stronger.
Brandon Kern is the director of state policy for Ohio Farm Bureau.