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Agriculture Careers Beyond the Farm

As a young 4-Her, Sydney Mitchell was determined to compete in the Minnesota Science of Agriculture project. It was a new contest designed to push youth to solve a problem in agriculture. With the help of her family and teammates, Mitchell developed an award-winning plan for Beyond the Farm.

“I researched and really realized there aren’t any programs out there that are teaching kids about ag careers,” recalls Mitchell. “There are a lot of programs teaching kids about farming and where their food comes from, which is really great. But there’s nobody out there teaching kids about careers in agriculture.”

As unemployment continues to be low, it can be challenging for agriculture companies to attract the right talent. Mitchell thinks that may be because people aren’t aware of the wide range of possibilities within the industry.

Mitchell says that was her team’s opportunity to develop a solution. It’s important for kids to know there’s more to agriculture than farming. From food science work to careers in natural resources, there are plenty of jobs closely tied to agriculture.

Although she grew up on her family’s small diversified farm, Mitchell sees her future in ag education. College is on the horizon and Beyond the Farm can’t compete as a 4-H project anymore, but Mitchell is passionate about continuing the mission.

“I’ve decided I want to just keep doing it and talking to as many people as I can,” she says. “I’ll continue the project as a hobby because I think it’s really important and it’s still something that I really love.”

Over the years, Beyond the Farm has used several methods to share these important career paths with students. The 4-H team members have interviewed animal nutritionists, greenhouse operators, and other professionals to create videos for Facebook and YouTube. Mitchell also visits ninth-graders to speak about job shadowing and challenges young people to find a role in the industry that matches their interests and skills.

“It’s really great to see their responses when they realize all of the work that is part of agriculture. Kids are just so blown away by these jobs that, if you really think about it, are related to agriculture,” Mitchell explains.

As Mitchell’s project has continued over the last few years, it has caught the attention of the local newspaper and FarmHer. The team was invited to speak at a Grow by FarmHer event held at the University of Minnesota.

what you can do

While making videos and speaking to high schoolers may not be realistic for everyone, there are plenty of ways you can spread the good word about careers in agriculture.

When you do get the opportunity to share your story, you can speak up and recognize the people who support your business. Talking about how you interact with your veterinarian or local equipment dealer can help young people see the importance of those roles.

If you have an off-farm job, employment off the farm may help you gain skills that will be applicable to the farming operation while also bringing in a steady wage and benefits. Sharing the combination of roles with young people can be helpful in planning their futures.

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