Some people worry, some people act. Agriculture is at a place now where the pipeline of young farmers that fills out the ranks of those who make agriculture run has become a little under-pressured. This same pipeline also supplies employees to the industries that support farmers.
A fair amount of people who provide the effort and intelligence that make agriculture possible probably did not grow up on the farm. These people may not have the skills necessary to work in agriculture nor the background to make a reasonable decision as to whether they want to participate in the industry that makes it possible for us to eat. The decision to become a farmer requires more investment than most jobs as you are accepting a certain lifestyle when you decide to spend most of your time in the field, in the shop or with cattle.
Adawn Nelson is one of those people who sees a problem and acts. Nelson was my Farm Business Management instructor for a short time but prior to that she had taught Agriculture at both Lincoln High School and the University of Minnesota at Crookston. She is also a farmer, She has seen what the farming lifestyle entails and understands the skills and education needed by new farmers. Some of these skills are more important than even a pair of pliers and leather holster. I think she is uniquely qualified to help others walk through this process.
I spoke with Adawn one day and she explained the fledgling Agriculture program to me. Agribusiness is provided with workers from very specific educational majors. Their knowledge is very deep but also very narrow. Agribusiness now needs someone who has a good amount of knowledge in many things. They not only need to know how a plant grows but they need to know how that growth effects the bottom line for a farmer. They have to be able to see a problem from many different aspects.
These same folk who can fill the employment pipeline for agriculture may not be familiar with this business and lifestyle. They need to experience working with bankers just as much as they need experience working with animals. Agriculture is a big, beautiful world but you have to speak many languages to be understood and to understand others. This is what the Agriculture program is doing at Northland Community and Technical College.
Adawn Nelson explained to me that her students would be able to take their new degree and fold it into a four-year program. This is the kind of flexibility that can take a young person and give them the kind of skills where they could become a valued farm manager for an older or partially-retired farmer. For those who want to have their own farm, this is also excellent training. You can receive a well-rounded education that allows you to make cooperative decisions with experts from individual fields such as agronomists, bankers and equipment dealers.
Many in agriculture wonder who is the new young, beginning farmer and where will we find him or her. I think part of the answer begins with this new Agriculture degree for Northland Community and Technical College. If you want to be a future farmer, talk to Adawn Nelson.