ROME, NY — Former United States Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, said, “One out of every 12 jobs in the economy is connected in some way, shape or form to what happens on the farm.” That’s pretty good odds to look for career opportunities within agriculture.
This was the 2017 Food & Farm Experience (FFX) task, as the New York Farm Bureau Foundation for Agricultural Education Team, focused its energies on career exploration and development for 40 student counselors representing New York middle and high schools throughout the state. The program connected school counselors with an industry that offers more than 300 related career opportunities.
The Food & Farm Experience is an annual summit for exchanges about agriculture and making connections with a full array of those associated with, and engaged in, agriculture. This enhances the foundation’s mission “to inform and educate all New Yorkers regarding agriculture and to increase understanding of agriculture between the farm and non-farm public.”
“The men and women of our schools will be ready to touch the lives of the next generation as they guide them in career choices, with those choices gaining an expanded view and understanding of agriculture,” said Managing Director of the NYFB Foundation for Agricultural Education, Sandra Prokop.
The two-day, in-depth agricultural experience held at The Beeches Inn & Conference Center in Rome, NY, featured a kickoff dinner with speakers Terry Hughes from Agricultural Education and FFA Career Development Event Specialist at Cornell University and Shawna Papale, Senior Vice-President at Mohawk Valley Edge. The career counselors learned about the many facets of agricultural ventures from Oneida County Dairy Farmer, Jake Schieferstine, Alicia Keller from Mycogen Seeds, Andy Mower from Performance Premixes, Jean Gallagher of Farm Credit East and Chris Hill of Oneida/Herkimer/Madison BOCES.
The agenda also included a field trip to GEA Technologies in Westmoreland, Growmark FS, LLC in Sangerfield and Tayl-wind Dairy Farm in Clayville, NY, culminating with a trade show, a local food banquet and sharing of stories by FFA students and local producers. In an interactive presentation, the group learned how to translate agriculture career information to students with a plethora of tools from New York Agriculture in the Classroom and how to start a high school agriculture program.
Dale Bartholomew, Certified Crop Advisor and Agronomy Sales for Growmark FS, LLC, stressed the desire to learn and communication skills as attributes he looks for in recruiting young people. “The toughest job as an agricultural industry is bridging young people and experienced people together. There is a lot of education that can come across the kitchen tables of America.”
“I would recommend this event to anyone in education today, they would all benefit from the experience to ensure that agriculture is included in STEM/STEAM education,” said one enthusiastic counselor. “I appreciate all the hard work the foundation puts into making the 2017 Food & Farm Experience a success. I heard so many people praising the organization and content of the sessions and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. You seem to have this down to a science and it gets better every year! We look forward to continuing to support the Food & Farm Experience in the future,” said Raquel Gonzalez, Director of Policy from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
“Our school counselors are amazing and they were actively involved and we learned from each other. I am even more inspired to continue the FFX and spread the word about the hundreds of ag careers. The opportunities are amazing and it is a win-win for our students, communities, state, economy and agriculture to use the creativity and ingenuity of our students to move agriculture ahead with our homegrown talents and to fill the job/career pipelines for the future,” said Foundation Managing Director, Sandra Prokop.
To learn more about the NYFB Foundation Initiatives give Sandy a call at 518-431-5633 or visit www.nyfbfoundation.org.