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Across the Editor's Desk: Mid-March 2008

Agriculture.com Staff 03/21/2008 @ 10:28am

The older I get, the more I enjoy seeing the children and grandchildren of farmers I first met 20 to 30 years ago join them in the family farming business.

I can't prove it statistically, but farm parents seem to value higher education even more passionately than the general population. Perhaps it is because farm parents understand how much knowledge, continuous learning, and management of assets it takes to run a successful farm.

Russ Weathers is president and CEO of Agriculture Future of America. AFA provides leader and career development training, intern opportunities, and scholarships for college students preparing for careers in agriculture.

"The majority of those students who have the opportunity to return to the farm say that they plan to do so sometime in the future after starting their careers in the agri service industry," Weathers says.

They choose this path for several reasons, he says.

"First, parents are encouraging them to go work somewhere before they decide to return home. Mom and Dad want them to be sure this is really the career path they want. And second, most students say that until their parents are ready to retire that the operation will not support both families," he adds.

One measure of a vibrant and exciting industry is the quality and quantity of people wanting in on it. Quality is abundant.

"The New Century Farmer program provides a great opportunity for some of the brightest young leaders to obtain additional knowledge and tools to become successful in agriculture," says Tad Mozena, Rabo AgriFinance vice president of communication.

"The recent uptick in profitability has drawn the interest of some young adults toward ag as a career that offers great rewards as well as risks," says Greg Peton, Pioneer key account manager. "The mind-set of these students is one of viewing farming as a business that allows them the lifestyle, independence, and freedom that preceding generations readily embraced."

Still, many great prospects for careers in ag lack encouragers.

"Students feel isolated in choosing to pursue ag careers," Weathers says. "They tell us their mentors, parents, teachers, and especially peers do not support and, in many cases, object to their choice to pursue an ag-related career. This is an attitude rooted in a century of negative experience. The current economic trends provide agriculture leaders with fuel to promote a new attitude of opportunity in this dynamic industry."

The older I get, the more I enjoy seeing the children and grandchildren of farmers I first met 20 to 30 years ago join them in the family farming business.

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