Lincoln's historic Haymarket and Pinnacle Bank Arena were flooded with blue and gold as FFA-ers from chapters across Nebraska gathered for the 87th annual Nebraska State FFA Convention last week. This may have been my first year judging State Proficiency finalists, but I think my fellow judges would agree that after interviewing FFA members for an entire day, it's safe to say the future of agriculture in Nebraska and the U.S. is in good hands.
As has been pointed out over the last few days, ag education is growing at a tremendous pace in the state, with 15 new programs starting up just in the fall of 2015. It's not hard to see the benefits for students. The FFA-ers I interviewed seemed to be well ahead of their peers in experience in their respective fields. It isn't every student that can say they ran their own enterprise when still in high school.
The FFA members I visited with have gotten their feet wet early. Some already had experience developing their own unique niche and flavor for the produce, pork, and beef they raise and market to their customers. Others have served as educators, teaching the fundamentals and importance of agriculture in Nebraska to younger students within their community and even students over 200 miles away in metropolitan areas.
Not only that, but most of these future leaders in agriculture have a good understanding of that daunting task at hand – those nine billion people farmers and ranchers are going to have to feed by 2050 – as well as conveying the importance of U.S. agriculture and advancements in technology to meet this need. I've often been told there are no better advocates for agriculture than those who, in the not-so-distant future, will be carrying the torch.
I'm not speaking from an entirely outside perspective here. As a twenty-something ag journalist I've had a great view of how things are playing out in what seems to be an ongoing Green Revolution, and the level of innovation coming from today's young agricultural professionals seems unparalleled by their peers who may not have the same opportunities until they reach college.
Whether it's making the most efficient use of the resources available in the produce and livestock they raise or spreading the word of agriculture to fellow students, today's young agricultural professionals are getting their start early, and it looks like the future of agriculture is in good hands.