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My Food & Farm Experience: Made in New York

MADE IN NEW YORK     by Jane Halladay

“Made in New York” says it all when you attend New York Farm Bureau’s Foundation (Foundation) for Agricultural Education’s Food and Farm Experience.  Attending the fall conference is an educational, enriching, and fun experience.  This learning opportunity through the Foundation ranks as one of the best I have attended in 30 years of teaching in New York.  Receiving up-to-date information and gaining knowledge of new agricultural job opportunities for my students was just the tip of the carrot in the information gained.

The Food and Farm Experience is an annual fall conference open to educators and middle school and high school career counselors across New York State.  Each year the Foundation selects different areas of the state to emphasize the career and agricultural businesses in the region.  To be part of the conference, individuals fill out an application and send them into the New York Farm Bureau Foundation; when you are selected the only thing your school pays for is the substitute teacher and transportation.  What is provided?  Room for two nights, food (even great snacks), and dinner on the last night featuring local foods and beverages.  This year’s dinner was a wonderful example of what riches are found when it comes to foods that are right in our backyard, so to speak.

Our experience included a choice of tours, where we were bussed to local business and learned about job opportunities for our students.  I was very interested to learn about Craig Station Creamery and Noblehurst Digester, and the impact they are having on the environment.  The creamery is an all-green facility that takes local milk, and creates products and contributes little waste for the environment.  Furthermore, we learned how the digester works and what they put into it each day to create energy – fascinating.

By attending this conference, I became aware of current information in the agriculture business career field that is available to students and how open the opportunities are for students.  We were given many resources to help give students appropriate information on opportunities like job shadowing with Cooperative Extension and Cornell University.  Past students presented and explained the benefits on these programs that have contributed to their success today in their chosen careers.  The information they shared lent balance to the other information gained during this conference.

Dr. Sheila Eigenbrod started the conference off with eye-opening information on future projections such the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture said that there will be 57,900 job openings in the food, agriculture and environment fields, and we will be short 20,500 employees in the near future. These are jobs that will be feeding us, and we will not have people to fill them.  What will happen?  I for one have started to encourage students to look at agricultural and food jobs.  These jobs involve robotics, vertical farming, computer applications and so many more.  Many of the jobs you could say are not farm jobs, but all connect to farming and feeding the world.

The presenters also explained what their expectations for future employees are, which reminded me of the things I need to reinforce when I teach my students.  The speaker’s expectations also reinforced the importance of training my students in such things as problem solving skills, creative thinking, being organized and other soft job skills.

So, the question to you is “are you using all the resources available to you?”  Do you know the resources in the food and agricultural realm? This experience is time will spent learning about career opportunities that are open for all of your students.  Get an application and apply!

Jane Halladay is a Family and Consumer Science Teacher in New York State for 30 years, teacher at Johnson City High School, a small farmer, New York Farm Bureau member, New York State lifetime dairy farmer’s daughter from Jefferson County, Eastman Dairy, LLC.