Isn’t agriculture already ‘cool?’ (Editorial)

(Oct. 7, 2014) The title got our attention when it hit the inbox: “Making agriculture cool.”
It was a summer blog entry from Danielle Nierenberg, founder of the Food Tank, a website focused on issues in the global food system.
“Agriculture has an image problem,” she wrote. “Simply put, for the majority of the world’s youth, agriculture simply isn’t seen as being ‘cool’ or attractive. Most think of it as only back-breaking labor without an economic payoff — and little room for career advancement.”
Nierenberg goes on to list several efforts under way across the world to help young people make a go of it at farming.
From our perspective — and we trust yours as well — agriculture hasn’t lost any coolness. Understand, we’re not talking about homecoming-queen or football-team-captain kind of cool. This is the kind of cool that wakes a child up early on Saturday to make sure he doesn’t miss riding on the combine with dad. The kind of cool that a 13-year-old girl feels when her calf is named grand champion. The kind of cool that brings high schoolers home exhausted, but smiling, after a day working outside.
Farming isn’t for everyone — that’s no surprise — but once a child decides it is cool to them, it stays that way.
The problem comes when they don’t see opportunity in agriculture as a career.
That’s a charge for the current leaders, the legislators and policy makers to foster a business climate where a career in farming isn’t viewed as second-rate; for farm groups to continue making strides in exposing children to agriculture and for farming parents to create the atmosphere and opportunity where a child can and wants to keep the farm going.
Luckily that picture appears to be getting brighter and brighter.
The local food movement remains robust as small farms pop up or existing farms diversify to meet demand.
States in the Northeast saw a 43 percent increase on average in the number of undergraduate students studying agriculture from 2004 to 2012, according to a recent Associated Press article.
The only region that topped it was the West, and the Mid-Atlantic isn’t far behind on the list
For all the issues farmers face around the country and especially in the states surrounding the Chesapeake Bay, this is an exciting time for agriculture with new “cool” things constantly on the horizon.
Technology will drive a lot of that coolness and bring people from all backgrounds into agriculture, a very good thing in itself.
In the Associated Press article, Emily Cotter, 22, an agriculture student and farmhand in Rhode Island, perhaps said it best, describing farming as an intellectual, physically demanding, fulfilling job.
“I think it’s cool, too,” she said. “But that’s because I’m a farmer.”