CP Editorial: CAFNR, not just for farm kids anymore

I did not grow up on a family farm. Yes, it’s true. I am in the College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources but I have almost no farm background. About five hours away from my hometown of East Prairie, Missouri, my grandparents breed Charolais cattle. Helping grandpa feed bottle calves over Thanksgiving break was the closest I ever came to having an active role in farming. I never had much of an interest in an industry that, from my point of view at that time, was full of nothing but old men driving tractors and tending to their cows.

The majority of the U.S. population also holds this misperception, and each generation is further removed from anything remotely connected to agriculture.

According to the US News and World Report, “during the last 30 years, the average age of U.S. farmers has grown by nearly eight years, from 50.5 years to 58.3 years.”

Young people no longer go back to the farm. However, with the help of agricultural education, a new breed of agriculturalists are finding their way onto the playing field.

Recently one of my teaching assistants questioned me about the jobs that people were looking for at the CAFNR Career Fair saying, “aren’t you all just farmers?”

I explained to her that many students in CAFNR are actually not farmers, including myself. I informed her that with the growing population, we have to double our food production by 2050. This means that the available jobs in agriculture are growing as well. In order for us to feed the world, we need students of all backgrounds and expertise to help, including communications, business, economics, food and plant scientists, and so many more.

In my opinion, one of the most important jobs in agriculture is education. In order for us to recruit students from all backgrounds, we must be able to reach out to them and convince them that working in agriculture is worth their time. What better place to do this than in the classroom?

According to the National FFA website, 32 percent of agriculture students live in urban or suburban areas. This means that students who would most likely never have a connection with agriculture are being taught fundamental skills they can use in their everyday lives, such as welding, public speaking, and basic economic principals.

During my freshman year of high school, I started taking classes in the agriculture program, but I still had no interest in a career in agriculture. I thought to myself, “how could this possibly benefit me? I don’t want to work in agriculture. I want to be a journalist.”

I mainly joined FFA because I wanted to go on trips with my friends, but slowly I found myself becoming more active. My adviser could see that I loved to talk and was rarely shy so he urged me to take part in a public speaking contest. Public speaking became my niche in high school.

Once I took the advice of my teacher, I flourished in FFA and became more confident in my abilities. I did not always win, but I loved being able to communicate to people and try to persuade them to think the way I did. When I started going to leadership events after my freshman year, I began to learn about different jobs in agriculture.

The Missouri Agribusiness Academy is an event in which 30 FFA and 4-H members are chosen to tour agricultural businesses in Missouri and learn about different agricultural professions. After meeting several people who were so passionate about their jobs, I knew that the agriculture industry was where I wanted to be. My mission was to find my place in agriculture.

I did not realize until my junior year of high school that I could work in journalism as well as agriculture. The two things I was most passionate about came perfectly packaged in a major that seemed like it was meant for me. As you have probably realized, I am now studying agricultural journalism at the University of Missouri.

Each and every day, I encounter new and exciting opportunities in communications, marketing, and research all in a field that I am interested in: agriculture. As a girl who never would have described herself as country, I can attest that the agriculture industry is one that anyone from any background can invest in.

If we want the agriculture industry to continue to be successful we must bring in a diverse group of young people. What better way to reach them than through agricultural education?

Alexa Nordwald

About the Author Alexa Nordwald

Hi, my name is Alexa Nordwald, and I am currently a freshman at the University of Missouri majoring in science and agricultural journalism. I hail from about five hours southeast of Columbia in the small town of East Prairie, Missouri. Although my grandparents raise Charolais cattle in Audrain County, I did not grow up on a farm. On campus I participate in Christian Campus House Ministries, Agricultural Communicators and Leaders of Tomorrow, and the professional agricultural sorority, Sigma Alpha. I also work at the University of Missour Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) and serve as a Missouri FFA State Officer.