Alabama Center Introduces Students to Agriculture

March 15, 2016 09:00 PM
 
Alabama Center Introduces Students to Agriculture

As the president and CEO of International Fertilizer Development Center, Scott Angle is concerned about the future of agriculture in more ways than just developing new and more efficient fertilizer products.

He's concerned about the number of young people going into the business of agriculture. Members of the IFDC Board of Directors also are concerned.

Because of that, they wanted Angle to get IFDC more involved in the community and especially the schools and their agricultural programs such as 4H and Future Farmers of America.

"Not enough people know what goes on in this building," Angle said. "Through our international work group, we're more known all over the world than we are in our local community. A lot of people on the board understand that agriculture is not appreciated by many people, whether it's in the Shoals area or in Africa. It's a global problem."

As a result and through a partnership with local Auburn Extension System coordinators, 4H members from around the Shoals were invited to tour the facility Friday. A half-dozen students participated in the tour.

IFDC spokesman James Thigpen said one goal of the tour is to expose more young people to the science side of agriculture.

"We're trying to build the science and technology connection," IFDC spokesman James Thigpen said.

Colbert County Extension Coordinator Danny McWilliams said he met Angle about two months ago and decided to get together and discuss how IFDC and 4H could create a partnership.

"I think this is a really great fit, I really do," McWilliams said.

Angle, McWilliams and members of the extension services's 4H team met to discuss doing something around National Ag Day, which is Tuesday. National Ag Day is a movement to showcase agriculture and to educate people about agriculture and how it impacts their lives.

"He expressed to us that IFDC has been in the Shoals for a long time and in the state of Alabama for a long time, but a lot of people do not know what IFDC is," McWilliams said.

He said the same is true for the extension service. Many people are unaware of all of its programs.

The tour involved students from Colbert, Franklin and Lauderdale county 4H programs.

McWilliams said Angle also will be speaking to the North Alabama Animal Sciences Team that includes students from six north Alabama counties.

Exposing students to other aspects and jobs in agriculture is another goal of the partnership, Franklin County Extension Coordinator Katernia Cole said. She said when young people think of jobs in agriculture, they think of row crop farming.

"There are over 200 careers in agriculture that you can go into," Cole said. "A lot of the time when you talk about agriculture, kids think 'I have to be a row crop farmer.' That's not necessarily true. You can work at IFDC and be one of the chemists or scientists and travel all over the world and see different people and different countries."

Cole said she hopes the partnership with IFDC will help open students' eyes to the many different agriculture-related careers they can go into.

She also wants to expose the Shoals to the Extension Service, 4H and IFDC.

Angle, the former dean of the University of Georgia College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, is a former 4H member himself.

He said IFDC also will reach out to FFA groups and various technical schools in the Shoals.

"There will be a lot of outreach to young people," Angle said. "But 4H was the obvious one because these kids already have somewhat of an appreciation of agriculture. We want to help them and we want them to learn more about what agriculture really is."

Angle said working on a farm with row crops or livestock only is a small part of the agricultural system.

"Probably 5 percent of all the employees in agriculture actually work on a farm," he said. "Everyone else works in some other aspect of agriculture."

Because there are not enough young people going into agriculture, Angle said in the next 20 years there will be a desperate shortage of highly trained people in the field, both in the United States and abroad.

"We're worried who is going to lead this industry," he said.

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