Times Are Changing and Agricultural Students Are Too
“In animal science, 80 percent of our students are female, 80 percent are interested in being veterinarians and 80 percent have no farm animal type experience, being from urban backgrounds,” said Fernandez. “ Animal science is easy to sell to people who love animals. We need consistent messages about the opportunities in plant and soil sciences. The opportunities are incredible and can be just as rewarding.”
At Purdue and Pennsylvania State, where Fernandez spent half a dozen years prior to coming to Purdue, students in agricultural majors have taken matters into their own hands. Their goals are to reach out to non-ag students, telling them about opportunities in agriculture and opening communications on agricultural issues. At Purdue, that includes the student-run “See What Ag Gives (SWAG) Purdue Ag Week.”
“At both universities, agriculture students are reaching out with a desire to share their perspectives with fellow students,” said Fernandez. “You would think that at a major land-grant university, there would be a common understanding about agriculture. These student efforts get communications flowing in both directions.”
Students Want to Make A Difference
One of the students who has reached out is Michael Baird. The recent Purdue graduate with a double major in horticulture production and marketing and agribusiness management is a field sales representative for Beck’s Hybrids. His family has a small row-crop and livestock operation with a strong agri-tourism bent. Baird and a brother operated a fruit and vegetable business to help finance their college careers. He put his hands-on farming experience to work as an agriculture ambassador for the College of Agriculture.
“I get questions all the time about jobs in agriculture and respond that there are tons of potential jobs and that you don’t have to be from a farm,” said Baird. “People want to know about agriculture because they are so removed from it. It’s cool to be able to share information with them or clear up a misconception. They get excited about your personal story of agriculture.”
Baird emphasized, as Boggs and Fernandez had suggested, it is more than jobs that are driving this crop of students. “We know we can make a difference, change lives and the future of the world,” said Baird. “In my new position, I will be helping farmers in Kentucky be more successful at raising corn, soybeans and wheat so they can grow their business and provide for their families. Eventually I hope to again be involved in the family business. I think it is important to introduce more students to agriculture because it is essential to our future. It is our responsibility to share our story with them.”