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The Future of Ag is Bright… and Diverse

This article first appeared in Lancaster Farming as part of a new series, “Farm Credit Corner” which will print the second Saturday of each month. Be sure to look for it in your print copy!

By Jenny Kreisher, Farm Credit marketing specialist

There is no doubt that agriculture is one of America’s most important industries. Growing food and fiber for our country is one of, if not the oldest and most noble professions out there, and with each passing decade, it’s becoming more efficient, sustainable, and, in some cases, smaller-scale.

Today, farmers make up 2% of America’s workforce – a large decline from 31% back in 1917, a century ago. Though the number of traditional farmers may be smaller, the support system around them is larger than ever. We’ve seen a growth in what we call the “other side of ag” – those who may not be driving a tractor or milking cows, but they work every day to advocate for agriculture and help the industry continue to thrive. This “other side” is comprised of teachers, food scientists, nutritionists, economists, and engineers – just to name a few.

Recognizing this, the Farm Credit Foundation for Agricultural Advancement and its scholarship program was created in 2015, to ensure the future of agriculture remains strong and those looking to pursue a career in the field (or off) can do so, with a little financial help from Farm Credit.

“I’ve never been more excited about where the agriculture industry is headed,” says Ralph Robertson, a Maryland farmer and chairman of the Farm Credit Foundation for Agricultural Advancement. “I am proud to be a part of an organization that supports those looking to advance their education to better agriculture, their community, and the world.”

The Farm Credit Foundation for Agricultural Advancement provides ten scholarships valued at $10,000 each to students planning to pursue a career in agriculture. This can mean they plan to farm, join that “other side” of non-farmers, or both! The opportunities in ag are virtually limitless, as technological advances are made and the need for agricultural advocates (or agvocates, as many call them) grows.

“Now, more than ever, it’s important to help our farmers tell their story, and find ways to help them improve their processes,” adds Ralph. “America’s population is growing, but the amount of farmland we have continues to decline. Whether you’re looking to go into ag policy, marketing, financial services, or aquaculture, now is the time to enter the field. Farmers, and the industry as a whole, need you.”

Last year was the inaugural year of the Foundation’s scholarship program, awarding a total of $100,000 to students pursing a future career in agriculture. Among them were a mechanic, ag teacher, conservationist, and veterinarian. You can meet all of last year’s winners on the Foundation’s website, FCFoundationforAg.org.

“We received over 120 applications last year, which blew me away,” says Ralph. “The skills and talent these students possess made the decision a difficult one, but it also reassured me that there are youth out there planning to work in agriculture. It made me, as both a farmer and member of the ag community, extremely excited and I look forward to seeing how the industry evolves with them a part of it.”

To be eligible for the Foundation’s scholarship program, you must be a senior in high school, or currently enrolled in a two or four year education program, and reside within MidAtlantic Farm Credit’s territory, which can be found at mafc.com/locations.

Part of the application requirements include uploading a video illustrating why the applicant wants to pursue a career in agriculture, and how they hope to impact the industry.

“The video component allows applicants a way to visually demonstrate why ag is important to them and how they plan to make an impact on the industry,” says Ralph. “They essay questions are equally important to allow them to touch on specific topics, but videos capture their passion better than any recommendation letter or transcript can.”

Applications are being accepted online only, now through January 12, 2018. Those selected to win will be notified in March 2018.

For more information about the Farm Credit Foundation for Agricultural Advancement’s scholarship program, or to apply, please visit FCFoundationforAg.org. If you have any question, please email info@FcFoundationforAg.org, or call 888.339.3334.