An Outsider's Perspective of Agriculture
I grew up in a small town where a grand portion of residents consisted of cows in sleepy green fields. The high school and university I attended had outstanding agriculture programs, but my only involvement with them was walking past the goats on campus or driving by the greenhouses and watching students tend to their plants. FFA was an organization I knew existed at my school, but I knew nothing about it other than ribbons and blue jackets. I grew up surrounded by agricultural programs and opportunities to get involved, and yet my understanding of this broad field was admittedly lacking.
I thought agriculture was just about cows, corn and cotton.
After graduating with my bachelor’s degree, I had the great fortune of being hired as Alumni Relations Coordinator for the Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications (ALEC) department at Texas A&M University. During my first days at ALEC, I was given a tour of the department and met with faculty and staff. From this, I gained a new education on the vast and in-depth field of Agriculture.
I got to see the department’s media lab which housed a sound booth and state-of-the-art media and broadcast equipment. The students in the Agricultural Journalism and Communications program had the tools needed to gain experience in newsroom, television and radio stations. A big part of agriculture is communications, something I hadn’t considered before starting in the department.
I also was involved in a wide range of initiatives during my time in ALEC including plans to bolster their Agricultural Science STEM-related programs. The department graduates more STEM educators than any other Texas A&M department, and these graduates are responsible for preparing the next generation of educated/skilled professionals. They are currently raising funds for the Agriculture and Workforce Education Building which will house welding and carpentry labs, CAD lab, wet lab, greenhouse, and livestock handling facilities. STEM is such a large and important initiative in today’s world, and I discovered how deeply rooted agriculture is in STEM programs.
Another portion of the ALEC department focused on leadership studies. The Agricultural Leadership and Development program emphasizes the development of leadership capabilities, communication skills, and broad preparation in life sciences. Graduates of the program pursue careers in law, politics, public service, the military, and much more. Before starting at ALEC, I would have never considered that agriculture would be involved in leadership development. However, considering the industry is at the precipice of all other leading industries such as technology, food production, business, and manufacturing, ensuring tomorrow’s leaders are prepared and capable makes sense.
I could write an entire paper on the efforts of the department in international initiatives. From study abroad, leading capacity building and training programs, conducting international research, and partnering with governmental, private, and educational development organizations, ALEC is leading efforts abroad to further agricultural development world-wide. We live in a global economy and we are all connected, from the clothes we wear to the food we eat to the cars we drive. The state of agriculture in Africa, Haiti, or Peru, for example, impacts the U.S. Agriculture spins the web of commerce and relationships and brings the world together.
From the moment I stepped through the door at the ALEC department, my preconceived notions were flipped on their head. I discovered that agriculture is so much more than just farmers on their tractor or black and white cows at the dairy. It's an industry that connects with every other industry, that spans across all nations, and affects every single human on earth. This is an industry that seeks to end food insecurity and human suffering in impoverished countries while learning from global cultures and improving crop outcomes across the world. This is an industry that is modernized and uses latest technologies from new blends of fertilizers, to state of the art broadcast production equipment.
Agriculture is life as we know it. From the media we watch, to the clothes we wear, to the car we drive, and the food we eat, we are experiencing this industry in every part of our lives. I'm so thankful my mind was opened to the truth and to see the passion and determination in the work being done by industry professionals.