How to Attract Youths to Agriculture

( Portia Stewart )

Miriam Martin says she draws her inspiration from being a farm kid, and her upbringing was a gift. Now she wants to pass on that gift to others. Martin, a graduate research assistant at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, offers these thoughts on how agriculture can improve its outreach to young people. (Read more about Martin and her research on cattle care and wellbeing here.)

“I grew up showing pigs, and I learned each animal is an individual and they all have different needs. I was the little kid who named her show pigs and walked them twice a day. I think that taught me a lot about understanding animal behavior and welfare ultimately. In those settings we’re pretty good at stockmanship in a lot of ways. We teach animals to trust us, we acclimate them to a lot of different experiences. And that’s something that if we can implement these same concepts on a larger scale, we can make a lot of progress,” she says.

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She cites a few important efforts the industry can take to attract young people to agriculture. “We need to be much more supportive in universities of kids who want to go back to the farm and the ranch. I think that’s something we do a pretty poor job of now. Maybe we have a degree for them but are we actually developing specific classes for them or are they the afterthought because they don’t want to go to grad school or be a vet?” she asks.

She also says the profession needs to open up to hire more people and get kids on the feedlot.  

“Hire college students. Feedlots are always looking for pen riders. Not only will they have a better understanding if they go back to the farm what they need to do a better job of but also if they do decide I’d like to go work at a feedlot or go to a plant and run the yard there. There are good career options where we need kids who have an understanding of stockmanship.”

Miriam Martin

Martin, who benefitted from the mentorship of people like Angela Baysinger, DVM, says young people have to reach out to the older generation and ask for mentorship.

“It’s my responsibility to give back to the industry that gave me so much growing up. I think it’s a noble effort that agriculture is trying to feed people around the world,” she says. “We take flack as millennials with the reputation for going job to job, but this generation is looking for meaningful work. Feeding people is honorable work.”

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