I grew up around agriculture from the very beginning. My dad served as an area extension agent and my uncle and grandfather farmed. From an early age, I spent time riding with my dad to visit farmers or helping my uncle and grandad pick sweet corn or pull weeds.
At the age of 13, my dad decided it should be my responsibility to scout the family cotton acres. Every Monday he would wake me up at 6 AM, throw my bicycle in the back of his truck, drop me off at the first field with some scouting cards, and say “see you later on”.
Keep in mind all of this was before cell phones were widely used. Thus, began the ten-mile bicycle journey of scouting 300 acres of cotton and the reason for the title of this article.
I think back to those days often and although at the time they were not the most enjoyable, they taught me a number of valuable lessons. I learned how to be independent and responsible for myself. I learned cotton physiology and insect/weed identification. But most importantly, I learned about the feeling of satisfaction after a hard day’s work in agriculture. These lessons were the reason I chose a career in agriculture.
I say all this because I want to challenge our NAICC membership. The age of the average person involved in the agricultural industry is well over 50. We need to stimulate our youth to become involved in agriculture on a local and national level.
At Tidewater Ag, we post summer job opportunities at all the local high schools and we try to hire 4 to 6 students annually. Often times, some of those students will decide to go to college in an agricultural related field. Many of them have come back to work with our company and others have gone off to work for extension or industry. If hiring students for the summer doesn’t fit with your company, consider supporting local agricultural organizations and programs such as 4-H, FFA and Ag in the Classroom.
NAICC’s Foundation For Environmental Agricultural Education, (FEAE) has a goal in 2020 to partner with Ag in the Classroom agclassroom.org to reach youth at a younger age. Through the FEAE, there are also scholarships, including one for graduate students that will be available for the first time in 2020. Lastly, if you know a member who is interested in becoming more involved in NAICC, our Leadership Program is a great place to start.
The NAICC is an organization comprised of independent agricultural consultants, researchers, and quality assurance professionals. Coupled with our sustaining membership, I consider our organization to contain the largest wealth of agricultural knowledge in this nation. We have the ability to reach the youth in our communities and give them opportunities that will stimulate them to take interest in agriculture (but I wouldn’t recommend turning them loose to scout cotton on a bicycle).