The Future of Ag Depends on Students Today
Our world has changed a lot in 30 years. Who would have imagined in 1986 that we would have tablets and laptop computers, we’ve sequenced the human genome, and we have the internet, GPS and smartphones that can do almost anything we ask of them.
Now, imagine 30 years into the future--2046--that does it look like? Does everyone have a self-driving car? Are we able to activate our phones or communication devices simply through our minds? Is Twitter still around?
While I can’t begin to guess where much of the technology will truly go without completely letting my geek out, one thing is certain—people will still need food (of some kind) to survive. And, with our population growing and natural resources becoming ever more precious, we will need to find new ways to produce our food to feed the world.
It may be hard to picture today, yet agriculture will likely be one of the fastest and most changed industries that we will see by 2050, simply because we will need to stay ahead of global challenges for human survival. And, that means we will need the best agricultural workforce we can build, to successfully develop these future solutions for farmers.
I am an optimist, I believe in the possibilities and potential of scientists today, and in the future, to make the technological advances we need in time. But, we also have another challenge in agriculture, and that is filling these future roles as many students choose to pursue careers outside of our industry. With so much at stake—we have to ask ourselves, why aren’t more students excited about a career in agriculture?
Recently, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) hosted an ag workforce event to celebrate the rollout of their America the Bountiful Initiative. This initiative is a call to action for all of us in the industry to focus on the recruitment and retention of a more robust and diverse workforce, so we can have top talent working on meeting the goal of feeding an estimated nine billion people by 2050.
Dow AgroSciences has already started doing things to fill this need by putting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) outreach as a priority in our Sustainability 2025 goals. With nearly 500 employees volunteering as Science Ambassadors around the world, we are working every day to engage students and inspire families to realize the power and opportunity an in an agricultural career.
A common theme that transpired throughout the OSTP and USDA ag workforce event, is that many students today are removed from agriculture to the point where they don’t necessarily know or understand where their food is coming from. This gap indicates agricultural success in providing food, but it also means that to start recruiting students into the industry, we need to start with teaching them agricultural basics. Our Science Ambassadors hope to achieve this in the many communities where we have locations around the world, and we strive to do it in a fun and inclusive way.
With so many of us in the agricultural industry coming together, and the power of the OSTP and USDA pushing America the Bountiful forward, I hope to see a rapid shift in trends and students from all walks of life start choosing to enter the agricultural workforce. But, it’s going to take all of us—our industry leaders, our Science Ambassadors, our educators, and you. Together, we can inspire the students today to become the scientists of tomorrow. Because we need them to help discover the solutions that farmers will use to feed our future world population.
Jenna Marston is an R&D Communications Specialist at Dow AgroSciences. She received her B.S. in Biology and a Masters in Mass Communications from South Dakota State University. She loves supporting the scientists on her team and seeing how their work is helping feed the world.