2019 Food and Farm Experience Recap

The NYFB Foundation sponsored its fifth FFX Oct. 16-18, as 35 school counselors, career advisors, school superintendents and others associated with students’ future career choices from across New York State gathered in Corning, New York.  The three days included intense exploration into the area of agricultural careers through the insights of workforce development with industry leaders, employers and professionals in workshops, tours, and a trade show.  Joining this group were two participants representing agriculture; Betsey Gerber, a farmer and Farm Credit East employee, and Sarah Meyer, a farmer as well as involved in ag career counseling.  These individuals and our local collaborator, Nikole Watts from Chemung County Soil and Water, provided information and insights to their FFX peers and had the opportunity to share the experience. 

Crucial conversations rooted in the necessity to be proactive in educating the next generation of our workforce about the vast opportunities in agriculture was heard firsthand from employers and instructors who shared the varied pathways they have taken to their current place in agriculture. They helped the counselors understand what skills and knowledge they are seeking in potential hires, the challenges in securing a workforce, the proactive investments they are making in tomorrow’s workforce and some of the opportunities available to learn more about agriculture.

The FFX 2019 opened with an Ag 101 workshop for an agricultural introduction, followed by a reception and dinner for time to “get acquainted”.  An employer panel provided some insights as the group settled into the conference.  Our first day included several workshop leaders who shared their story, as well as a Farm Credit East presentation which included its programs and opportunities as well as diversified positions.  The group then was introduced to the Tompkins County Community College (TC3) program and the opportunities and programs through Soil & Water Conservation Programs. 

The group then departed for tours.  Our first stop was Upstate Niagara Cheese in Campbell, where they learned of the variety of careers and the tremendous opportunities, plus had a chance to sample so many delicious products!  We then traveled to Glenview Dairy LLC in Odessa, where a tour of the facility and front-line view of milking in process and a commentary of what was involved in the day-to-day operations was a real eye-opener.  Then on to Sunset View Creamery to learn about a different focus of dairy as we tasted and had an opportunity to learn about the art of cheesemaking and all the career opportunities within that specialized field.  These tours permitted participants to get an up-close look at various sectors of the agriculture industry while becoming more acquainted with newer technologies being used in agriculture to stimulate inquiry and interest.

Dinner at the Stoney Ridge Winery and Orchard included another “tasting” and an opportunity to interact with the Heppner Family.  The networking and conversations about agriculture were at an all-time high as FFX participants shared with each other and enjoyed the local tastes of agriculture. 

The final day included an industry outlook panel with Cornell, NY Turfgrass Association, SUNY Delhi, NYS Dept. of Ag & Markets, Christmas Tree Farmers Association, Seneca Lake Wine Trail, Veterinary Services and NYS forest products represented, who shared their own personal agricultural career roadmap as well as the many opportunities within their organization and/or education unit.  The diversification and opportunity hit home for many of the participants.

CTLE credits were offered for FFX and Terry Hughes and Katie Carpenter shared a great deal of information together with their passion for the industry.  Then the participants “wrapped up” the session with evaluations and comments and a quick review of the session.  Good byes were said, but with the understanding that the network established will be used for many things!

In summary of the event, participants are quoted as saying….

“Thank you for organizing such an eye-opening event. I definitely have some serious “unpacking” to do after those few days. Looking forward to local collaborations and really getting this program going and getting the new wave started.”

“The hospitality and attention to detail with your planning made for the best conference I’ve attended.  As an educator the last day blew me away with the resources.  Thursday blew me away with the experiences. Also, the amount of time to network was great.  I tried to as many people as I could and get a snapshot of their centers.  Again, thank you for all the hard work and awesome experience!”

The NYFB Foundation would like to recognize and thank those organizations that supported the 2019 FFX:  Pioneer Hybrid International, the Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance, Christmas Tree Farmers Association of New York and Price Chopper’s Golub Foundation.  Check nyfbfoundation.org for more detail about the agenda and presenters, who helped make the event so successful and inspiring.  We will be adding a variety of information in the coming month. Watch for updates about the FFX 2020, which will continue to focus on the middle and high school counselors who impact our youth, our industry and our economy.