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AgForLife, LLC Established to Address Agricultural Student Recruiting Woes

Original blog posted by Edward Romero on May 17th, 2010 on the AgForLife, LLC blog.


Agriculture.

What is it about agriculture that is so intriguing for some people and not even considered by others? After all, agriculture is the lifeblood of our society. It is because of agriculture that we are able to enjoy many of the joys of life. Just about everything we touch and definitely everything we eat comes from agriculture.

A small number of today’s undergraduate students in college are studying agriculture. Only 1.5% of the undergraduate college students are studying some form of agriculture in the United States.

Why?

Well, it is for a number of reasons. Based on a 2005 national study to evaluate the different factors affecting admission and matriculation of high school students in the United States into college programs related to agriculture sciences, 41% of the students had a misconception or image about agricultural sciences; 33% lacked knowledge about employment opportunities; and 22% lacked knowledge about fields of study.

What are we doing to address this issue? More importantly, who is doing something about it?

There are pockets of people, organizations, companies and a sprinkling of universities trying to address this problem, but we really are not making the strides we should be making given our growing population and changing demographics. Even more so, given the diverse career opportunities in agriculture, students are not enrolling into agricultural majors in the numbers you would think.

Companies are looking for larger pools of applicants in college. They are also looking for more students from underrepresented groups, but they are having a hard time finding large minority applicant student-pools to choose from in universities and colleges across the country studying agriculture.

Universities are constantly challenged in trying to recruit more students into their schools but they too are struggling in recruiting more minority students, especially Hispanics, and students in general into their agricultural programs. The issue of recruiting more students into agriculture – especially minority students – has been a long-standing issue. When I graduated from high school this was a problem. Today, almost 25 years later, we are still dealing with this problem and it is not going away any time soon. Many of the issues we faced 25 years ago, we are still facing today, such as those factors mentioned above from the 2005 national study. We need to address this issue proactively; otherwise, I believe it is going to hurt the agricultural industry.

Research shows that many Hispanic students (parents and high school counselors included) steer away from agriculture because of the perception that agriculture only equates to a dead-end career where only the negative perceptions of hard work, long hours, stoop labor, low wages, and working in harsh conditions are the norm. Perhaps this is true if you work in the production agricultural sector. However, less than 2% of our employment opportunities in agriculture are in production agriculture – farming and ranching.

So what are we doing about it?

In 2004, a concept was shared with a group of industry representatives in St. Louis, Missouri to address some of the above concerns. During the next 18 months, Dr. Edward W. Romero and Pablo Ramirez, a graduate student pursuing a Masters in Agribusiness, developed a framework to address this problem and a unique design and structure was born in what has become known as the AgForLife Map.
  • The AgForLife Map is utilized to help educate the general public about the various opportunities related to, but not limited to, occupational and career opportunities in agriculture, food and life sciences.
  • The AgForLife Map is an innovative process which helps in the recruitment of students interested in the agriculture, food and life sciences.
  • The two-dimensional AgForLife Map aides in the visualization and guiding students into employment opportunities and careers.
  • The Map aids in understanding the integration of multiple systems and the route taken for inputs, such as materials and information to reach the consumer as an output.
  • The AgForLife Map will assist students with knowledge in order to make informed decisions about multiple career paths and opportunities in the agriculture, food, and life sciences.
The AgForLife concept is derived from the belief in which a successful and vibrant agricultural industry relies on human capital. The 'chain' starts with well-educated and informed individuals knowledgeable about how agriculture plays a vital role in our daily lives.

In order to address areas such as career and employment opportunities in industry and government as well as student recruitment by agricultural schools, a small start-up company was formed in 2009, called AgForLife, LLC. It is grounded in the AgForLife concept and framework and was formed to begin to directly address issues facing agriculture by utilizing unique and innovative methods to reach students, primarily high school and college age students. In short, the company will be working to identify unique, non-traditional approaches using innovation and technology to address problems facing agricultural student recruiting today and within the coming decades, especially given the dramatic demographic shift in certain groups. You can learn more about their vision here.

If you share our concern as well as our vision, we encourage you to become involved. You may already be doing something in this area. Perhaps you have a blog, or you have a Facebook Group or Page advocating agriculture. As a first step, we encourage you to join our Facebook Group or Page. You can connect with us through a variety of social media sites found on our website.

In upcoming weekly AgForLife blogs, we will be blogging about a variety of topics dealing with agricultural student recruiting, minority student issues, careers, employment opportunities, and a variety of other agricultural related topics. If you have ideas or would like to share your comments on future topics, please connect with us. We would enjoy hearing from you.

Until next week, best wishes for a fun and productive week.

Adios!

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