I’ve been in agriculture my entire life.
From a Wisconsin farm to a career in agrimarketing, leading Bader Rutter’s relationship with the largest major agriscience company completely dedicated to agriculture, this industry is part of who I am.
That’s why National Ag Day and National Ag Week aren’t necessarily reminders for me of the value of ag. What excites me most about these annual celebrations of agriculture is how these events help others recognize the value in the community and industry I’ve known my entire life. Before we relegate National Ag Week to something we won’t see again until next year, it’s important to pay attention to two things our industry contributes year-round.
First, businesses are recognizing the value of youth mentoring programs and educational training pipelines that help secure talent for their industry. This isn’t new in agriculture.
In fact, agriculture may be one of the oldest youth-mentoring industries in the world, and the amount of science, technology, engineering and math available to our mentees is boundless.
For example, in 2016, 4-H became America’s largest youth development organization with nearly 6 million club members and an alumni base 25 million strong. According to the organization’s annual report, 4-H has sponsored more than 5 million STEM-based projects with partners as varied as Lockheed Martin and Disney. National FFA Organization, with its more than a half million members, offers in-school ag education programs and outreach for exploring more than 250 careers in agriculture.
Agriculture offers a glimpse into all disciplines. From science to engineering, botany to marketing and communications, students mentored in our industry get a window to the world. We in agriculture know how to mentor. It’s in our DNA. But we must also inspire. This week of awareness, themed “Food for Life,” may help agriculture outsiders see value in the industry, but if we don’t also inspire young people close to the industry, we will lose all the innovative potential of our next generation.
And that’s the second year-round achievement of agriculture: innovation.
Long before we spotted Google cars mapping our neighborhoods for us, agriculture was using GPS systems and GIS mapping to increase efficiencies and production volume. Drought-resistant crops, sustainable irrigation systems and virtual tours of a dairy barn are all forward-thinking innovations, but to us, they’re part of everyday ag.
We don’t invent revolutionary products like the cotton gin on National Ag Day. Durable food systems, digital information, efficient machine technologies and more are all a part of what we do every day.
National Ag Week and National Ag Day are important. Taking time out to notice and say thank you to those driving our food chain is important. But we must sustain that focus beyond a week of gratitude and turn it into daily inspiration — especially for the next generation. To celebrate National Ag Week in 2019, I recommend we spend the year nurturing talent and advancing innovation, but maybe I think like that because in ag, we’re trained to always look ahead.
Tom Posta joined the BR team in 1996 in the relationship marketing department after spending a few years at a consumer database and direct marketing firm. Today, he serves as chief operating officer. Always proud of his roots growing up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, Tom enjoys traveling to his farm in northern Wisconsin often and showing his two “city girl” daughters what hard work is all about.