2016 FOOD & FARM EXPERIENCE, EXPERIENCE
By Barbara Strum
October 19-21, 2016, 30 school counselors and career advisors from across New York State gathered in Batavia, for three days of intense learning about agricultural careers through the lens of workforce development with industry leaders, employers and professionals in workshops, tours and a trade show.
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.
Local agribusinesses and Genesee Community College embraced guided site visits in order for 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.
The networking and conversations about agriculture was enhanced through tasting session featuring local producers in the wine, cheese and fruit industries followed by a delicious dinner of locally grown or produced food catered by Penna Catering, Elba. Representatives of the beef, landscape and horticulture industries along with Raquel Gonzalez, Director of Policy, from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets joined in the group.
Reinforcing the experience, agriculture education professionals connected the experiential learning gained on the tours to endless resources, opportunities for seeding potential programs at their schools and further learning, training and development via an onsite trade show.
Participants are quoted as saying the following:
It was a diverse experience. One of the best conferences that I’ve attended! I couldn’t do it justice explaining this as much as someone would get by attending. The quality of speakers was amazing! Filled with down to earth, realistic discussions, the inclusion and importance of STEM in the field and the growing demand in ag careers while making invaluable connections w/ professionals in the agricultural field.
The information that I gained throughout this experience is mind blowing! I’m still not an expert, but I can speak about agriculture careers better and I have resources. My (knowledge) base has completely opened up! I now want to change my career! Diversity of agricultural careers is incredible- who knew?!