Could a career in agriculture be in your future?
That’s a question that many of the over 1,100 students attending the inaugural Farming Your Future event will now seriously consider.
Unveiling the many areas of agriculture — and exposing students from over 25 school districts to those areas — was the goal and brainstorm of Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES ‘School To Careers’ (STC) Program Director Dr. Christopher Groves.
“This was the result of a six-month initiative and a pro-active regional response effort to re-engage students back into agriculture, agribusiness, and agri-tourism,” remarked Groves. “This all stemmed from the agriculture summit last year.”
The event, which took place at the Herkimer County Fairgrounds in Frankfort, was a combined partnership of Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES STC, Madison-Oneida BOCES, and Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES; led by the STC Agriculture Committee.
According to Bryon Ackerman, Public Information Specialist/ Herkimer BOCES, the goal was “to immerse students in agriculture industry, providing the opportunity to interact with agriculture professionals, experience hands-on activities, watch demonstrations, view main stage presentations and more.”
This immersion took place in an organized fashion with group leaders and accompanying teachers — all whom learned new aspects of agriculture — rotating between exhibits throughout the daylong event.
Dairy farmer Tina Douglas of Richfield Springs, is an STC Ag Committee member and was a team leader for the event.
Douglas says the team covered as many areas of agriculture as possible.
“It is such a diverse industry; we felt it is important to expose students to the many opportunities,” commented Douglas. “The Ag Industry is so much more than a farmer. Educating the students about it gives them more opportunities to choose from — or consider — as a career.”
Exhibits and workshops were divided into four categories; Technology and Equipment, Horticulture/ Plant Science, Animal Care/ Livestock, and End Products/ Forestry. Drones and other latest technological advances in agriculture were showcased.
Douglas said students were excited and interacting with vendors; participating in activities and viewing equipment used daily. “Giving the students a hands-on experience was an important part of the success of the event.”
Cornell University’s New York Agriculture in the Classroom Director, Katie Carpenter, provided one of the ‘hands-on’ workshops available to students.
“While the intent of the event was to expose students to the varying careers in agriculture, I think the event did something even more important,” said Carpenter. “It enlightened students to some of the most basic concepts in food production.”
Carpenter reported that at her New York Agriculture in the Classroom display, “students had a tough time identifying seeds and telling me what a plant needed to germinate. This event was a great opportunity for them to realize how much they already know — and how much more there is to learn about growing food. If the event continues, I will be excited to see how the student’s agricultural literacy increases over the course of a year.”
Jacob Ax, NYS FFA Treasurer, and District V President Megan Lamb, Stockbridge Valley FFA, interacted with enthusiastic students during a Main Stage Presentation.
“I feel as though this event not only widened the face of agriculture to those students, it also brought together the agricultural community working for the same goal as always; educating the general public about what we do and why we do it,” commented Ax. “Agriculture may not always pay the best, have the best hours or environments, but it will always make a positive impact upon the people that it serves across America and the globe.”
STC Ag Committee member Bernie Armata, Director of CCE Herkimer Co., also took part in the event. He believes that kids will follow up on what they experienced.
“This is the largest event of its kind that I have seen in at least 15 years in this area,” commented Armata. “BOCES deserves a lot of credit in putting this together.”
Groves said the event would hopefully serve as a model for the rest of New York State.
“Our whole concept in using this type of organizational structure is to continue to push down the challenges in our region,” Groves stated. “We firmly believe that we can no longer allow regional borders to restrict opportunities for our students, and we shall not be defined by such. Our students are the most important resource we have and they need us now more than ever! Lead by a passionate Ag committee — composed of educators and professionals in the field — I truly believe we had all the right people to make this an unprecedented experience for our students across the region and the greater valley.”
Groves said the “solid team” behind the event proved to be its success. “It doesn’t blossom without the right team.”