The business of agriculture is business

Two interesting pieces in my news feed this morning.

The first from NPR on the rise of suburban, urban and even inner city Future Farmer’s of America chapters around the country:

Unlike FFA members of the past, Melton didn’t grow up on a farm. His parents did. And that’s the norm for the 60 other students in his chapter. “We’re in an urban area, so most of our members do not grow up on property, though they still have that connection to agriculture,” he says.

But because most millennials are several generations removed from the farm, the school district is going to great lengths to make agriculture appeal to more students.

Lauren Hart, the district’s FFA adviser and an agriculture instructor, says in her eight years of teaching, she has noticed a shift. A greater number of students are interested in organic farming methods, grass-fed beef and cage-free eggs. And Hart says she can’t just ignore what students want to learn about. “The interest and the ability both of students going into production agriculture is declining,” she says. “It’s just not something that a high school student either wants to or believes they can get into.” That’s why Hart reaches into areas you wouldn’t typically associate with farming — law, public policy, entrepreneurship and bookkeeping. And that’s something that doesn’t always sit well with a few students’ parents who hail from farm country.

They say, ” ‘When are you going to have my student on a tractor?’ ” Hart says. “Well, never.”

The second from Kristen Schmidt who uses her transition from the corporate world to sustainable agriculture to talk about how people can put a business background to work in sustainable agriculture and/or food advocacy:

Currently, sustainable agriculture jobs – and green jobs in general – are driving the U.S. economy. According to a recent report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, green jobs are quickly becoming one of the fastest growing employment sectors within the country and an article in the LA Times notes that the increase in green jobs crosses industries, stretching from manufacturing to education to compliance. While people often think of beekeeping, dairy farming or urban gardening when they think of sustainable agriculture jobs, there’s also a major need for traditional skills within this non-traditional environment. For example, a food advocacy organization is hiring a communications manager, a large organic yogurt company is seeking a farmer relationship manager, another organization is looking for a director of educational programs, and a large publishing company is hiring a managing editor for its agricultural sector (all jobs that are currently accepting applications as of the publication of this article).

There is a lot of great stuff going on out there, a little business skill and sense would be a welcome addition to more than a few operations.

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About Marc Brazeau

Free lance cultural attaché. Writing at REALFOOD.ORG.

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