by Tamara Scully
The Agribusiness Scholars Program, set to launch at Rutgers University, will combine all aspects of the Extension model — outreach, education and research — in a program designed to introduce students to the real world aspects of agriculture. Funded by a grant from The Clearing Corporation Charitable Foundation (CCCF), the honors program will be a two-year, 18-credit program available to qualified students entering their junior year at the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Science.
Its underlying goal is to prepare students for the workforce via direct exposures to the issues they will face on the job, and to help them begin to build the network they will need once they begin careers in the agricultural sector. To do this, Brian Schilling, Associate Extension Specialist in Agricultural Policy at Rutgers University, who teaches in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics, and Stephen Komar, Sussex County Extension Department Head, have partnered together to create the program.
The CCCF Agribusiness Scholars Program aims to improve agricultural teaching by “bringing research into the classroom, and the Extension experience into the classroom,” Schilling said. It will bring “a new way of teaching into the classroom.”
Outreach, education, research
Campus-based Extension specialists play a complementary role to county Extension agents. While most farmers are well acquainted with their county representatives, and may work with them on a regular basis, campus-based agents may not be as familiar or accessible. For students, the opposite is often true.
While county agents traditionally provide the latest research and information coming from the campus-based staff and make it available to farmers on the local level, teaching and research tend to primarily occupy campus-based Extension agents.
The new CCCF Agribusiness Scholars program will offer the opportunity for those normally involved in outreach to get into the classroom. By bringing Extension outreach experience into the classroom, students are given a different perspective on industry issues.
Future careers
Preparing students to enter the agricultural world, no matter how they choose to be engaged — as farmers, private industry representatives, educators, marketers or even Extension agents — is the purpose of the CCCF Agribusiness Scholars program. By better equipping the next generation for the demands and reality facing the farming sector today, the agricultural industry can remain and grow as a vital segment of our economy.
According the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the food, agriculture and renewable energy sectors will have a need for skilled workers. Many jobs are expected to be focused on business and management aspects. The demand for personnel is anticipated to outpace the number of graduates from traditional agricultural majors.
“Extension is about identifying a need, and developing a program to address that need,” Schilling said.
This program was designed to do just that.