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Posts tagged: Education

How College Catapults Students to Ag Careers

Gracie Valdez explains how traveling around the world helped her to want to pursue a career in international agricultural development and trade.

Growing up, the question of the day often started with “why” or “how” because I loved discovering things. Though my specific interests morphed from archaeology to geology to biology, I knew I wanted to be a scientist since the 5th grade.  In college, I chose to study biology, which exposed me to many different aspects of the field.  College was the springboard that sharpened my focus and led me to becoming the ecosystem ecologist I am today.  Recognizing National College Signing Day, I hope that today’s inbound students consider studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects to help meet our future agricultural challenges. Read more »

Honoring my Teachers, Sharing Traditions on the San Carlos Apache Reservation

USDA Deputy Under Secretary Arthur “Butch” Blazer with a group of San Carlos Apache Reservation fourth graders

USDA Deputy Under Secretary Arthur “Butch” Blazer is all smiles with a group of San Carlos Apache Reservation fourth graders as they hold up their Every Kid in a Park passes. Smokey Bear got in on the fun, too, and provided the kids with a special packet of information about wildfire prevention. (U.S. Forest Service)

With more than 40 years of professional experience working in the field of natural resources, I am sometimes asked to share the personal outdoor experiences I had as a tribal member growing up on my reservation. When the request involves children, and those children are Native American, I am especially honored because in my culture the elders share traditional teachings of how we are connected to nature, both through stories and traditional songs.

As we celebrate Earth Day 2016, I am reminded of a recent invitation from the U.S. Forest Service Tonto National Forest and Smokey Bear to speak at a career day on the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona. I had an audience of 180 tribal fourth graders from Rice Elementary School to share my experiences growing up on a reservation and the lessons I learned about the outdoors. Read more »

USDA and MANRRS Help Cultivate the Next Generation of Agricultural Leaders

A USDA scientist teaching MANRRS students about tomato grafting

A USDA scientist teaches MANRRS students about tomato grafting at the High School Symposium.

Recently, the National Society of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS) hosted its 31st National Career Fair and Training Conference. MANRRS is a non-profit organization that promotes academic and professional advancement by empowering minorities in agriculture, natural resources, and related sciences, and has more than 1,650 members in 38 states.  Welcoming people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, MANRRS works to increase diversity of talent in the field of agriculture.

As a longstanding partner with this organization, USDA helped sponsor the 2016 MANRRS conference, where over 950 participants from across the Nation gathered to discuss ways to grow the next generation of leaders. Participants ranging from high school students to professional members explored the latest developments in the agriculture, natural resources, and related sciences along with professional development, networking, and mentoring. Read more »

Developing New Leaders in a Global Landscape

Florida A&M University students

Florida A&M University students participated in a program in South Africa to improve that country’s agricultural performance in table grapes. (Photo courtesy of Harriet Paul)

Historically black colleges and universities, particularly the “1890 land-grant universities (LGUs),” have conducted groundbreaking studies to further advance agricultural research in this country, such as eradicating peanut allergens and food borne illnesses.  Now, they’re making significant impacts abroad by strengthening U.S. global outreach in agribusiness.

In summers of 2011 to 2015, Florida A&M University (FAMU) students, in collaboration with University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), took part in an 18-day program in South Africa to improve that country’s agricultural performance in table grape and aquaculture production and educational value chains.  The trip was supported by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), through its 1890 Capacity Building Program, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Farmer-to-Farmer Program. Read more »

USDA’s Commitment to Develop Food and Agricultural Workforce of the Future

Dr. Ann Bartuska, Deputy Under Secretary for the USDA Research, Education, and Economics (REE) Mission Area, speaking at a Workshop at the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

Dr. Ann Bartuska, Deputy Under Secretary for the USDA Research, Education, and Economics (REE) Mission Area, speaking at a Workshop at the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on February 10, 2016. The Workshop brought together stakeholders from universities, government, non-government organizations, and the private sector to discuss growing needs in the agricultural workforce.

Nearly 99% of farms in the United States are family operated, and they account for roughly 90% of agricultural production. With statistics like these, it’s not surprising that many people associate jobs in agriculture with small-town America, farmers and tractors, and corn fields and cattle.

While the importance of farmers cannot be overstated, the diversity of careers available in the agricultural sector is staggering and often underappreciated. According to a 2013 study funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), an average of 57,900 jobs will open every year from 2015 to 2020 and require a bachelor’s degree or higher in food, agriculture, natural resources, or environmental studies. These jobs will include a range of sectors, including management and business; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); food and biomaterials production; and education, communication, and government services.  Strikingly, it is also expected that 39% of positions will go unfilled. Read more »

Looking Ahead: Adding Seats to the Table to Diversify the Agricultural Workforce

USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden with ADM Chief Human Resources Officer Mike D’Ambrose and students Nicole Ashley Holden and Dara Robertson at the Agriculture Diversity and Inclusion Roundtable in Washington, D.C.

USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden with ADM Chief Human Resources Officer Mike D’Ambrose and students Nicole Ashley Holden and Dara Robertson at the Agriculture Diversity and Inclusion Roundtable in Washington, D.C.

From the field to the fork, we need diversity in agriculture.  I’m proud to say that here at USDA, we are doing our part to make sure young people have access to the wide array of opportunities available. Over the next five years, we can expect to see an average of 57,900 jobs become available annually in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and the environment. However, only 35,400 students will graduate with the specialized degrees and expertise to fill those jobs, leaving 39 percent to be filled by young people with talent in other areas. We need to expand the talent pool and change the dialogue to show agriculture as an attractive, meaningful career path.

Recently, I had the pleasure of participating in a roundtable discussion with leaders from industry, higher education, and the nonprofit sector to share best practices on how we can come together to grow a diverse pipeline of talent for U.S. agriculture. Together, we were able to discuss what’s working, and where we can improve to create opportunities for young people of all backgrounds to ultimately strengthen the ag workforce. Read more »