No one is ever just a farm kid

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farm kids

Recently the Super Bowl provided us all a break from other current events as the gridiron showdown brought together two famed quarterbacks. However, for those of us whose lives revolve around agriculture, there were a few commercials that may have bristled our nerves.

For the purpose of this article, let me refer to it as the “believability factor.” Although I listened intently to the rhetoric of Bruce Springsteen and that rural road, I had difficulty connecting him to the cowboy hat. The quirky Oatly commercial raised my eyebrows because the scientist founder was staged amongst soybeans, and I chuckled at the mixed message.

It amazes me that those who produce these costly ads forget to prioritize accurate research.

Near the time of this sporting event, an employer called about a former student who used me for a reference. The first comment on the other end of the phone suggested the applicant was just a farm kid. In my thoughts, the employer and the commercial scenarios have much in common.

Agriculture is at the core of civilization. It appears that we can dress it up, become confused about it, and even take it for granted. Yet in a recent study by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Purdue University, it is made clear that roughly 60,000 job opportunities will become available annually up to 2025 for college agriculture graduates. They will come from a wide array of backgrounds, cultures and disciplines to help in solving issues.

The report, titled “Employment Opportunities for College Graduates,” covers all aspects of agriculture and will account for 61% of all new job hires; 42% will be in business and management; 31% in science and engineering; 13% in food and biomaterials production; and 14% in a catch-all category of communication, education and government.

Although the report speaks to college graduates, I must include my own assertion that there will always be career opportunities for anyone with a talent and passion directed to the industry.

The other stunning realization is that we must have the succeeding generations return to the farm. What sort of invitation are we offering and who is doing the recruiting?

So, this really is not an article about Super Bowl ads referring to agriculture or even the report on career opportunities. It is still more of a plea based on the “believability factor” introduced at the beginning. These youthful candidates need to be recruited into the fold. Whether they come with bright minds, creative ideas, muscle or determination, we are all a part of the balanced equation.

As Ohio State plans and moves forward with Multispecies Animal Learning Center at the Waterman Farm Complex location, every step of the process is dedicated to the educational experience of the students and building their skill set for the future. It will include multidiscipline and multidimensional methods of teaching that will nurture the “believability factor.”

Whether you are a parent, mentor, educator, employer, admissions counselor or advisor, it becomes our responsibility to believe in youth and then to advocate for them. They are not the finished product, but a wealth of potential ready for harvest. There is a need to look beyond paper credentials and into the soul of agriculture. The message should be loud and clear that agriculture is ripe with opportunity for anyone. And here is some additional good news: If you are that person referred to as “just a farm kid,” you already have a jump start.

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Bonnie Ayars is a dairy program specialist at Ohio State University, coordinating all state 4-H dairy programs and coaching the OSU collegiate and 4-H dairy judging teams. She and her husband also own and operate a Brown Swiss and Guernsey cattle farm. In 1994, Bonnie was named Woman of the Year at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis.

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