Growing The Next Generation: "Modern Agriculture Is More Than An Old Man In Overalls"
Two months ago, before the coronavirus pandemic hit Ohio, County Lines producer Renee Wilde met with faculty and students at Wilmington College in Clinton County and heard their ideas about rural life and the prospects for a career in agriculture.
Agriculture is the largest major for Wilmington students, and surprisingly those AG students are predominantly female.
Carly Fitz, Grace Smith and Morgan McFarland are freshmen students studying agriculture at Wilmington College. They are known affectionately as ‘aggies’ around campus. All three women came from rural high schools, where their average graduating class was around 40 students, and in this interview they talk about the culture shock of going from a small rural high school to a mid-sized college, and how modern agriculture is not just some old white guy on a tractor surrounded by cows.
MORGAN McFARLAND: This is Morgan McFarland talking with...
GRACE SMITH: Grace Smith
CARLY FITZ: and Carly Fitz
McFARLAND: And we’re going to talk about lifestyle changes from home to college.
FITZ: It’s honestly just a culture shock. There’s not much diversity at my school. Like, literally we had one mixed race kid, and the rest were white kids. So coming to Wilmington it’s been an enlightening experience, because I get to hang out with all these new people that I never hung out with before. So many different cultures coming together in one building.
SMITH: When I came here, like the first couple days I kept saying ‘I feel like I’m at 4-H camp’. Because you come in and you’re doing all these activities, orientation activities. We’re playing games. We’re doing ice breakers. Doing scavenger hunts, running around campus.
FITZ: Honestly the first thing that would go through my head every morning was that Thomas Rhett song. That first week here I was like, ‘waking up in the college dorm room’.
McFARLAND: It’s also really cool to see all the different kinds of friends I’ve made living in my dorm. Grace and I actually live in the same hallway. We’re on [the] second floor [of] Pickett and it’s always bopping.
It’s like me, Grace, and our other aggie friends, and then Brie, who's my roommate, and all her soccer friends. It’s so much fun to talk to them and talk about their experiences, because a lot of them didn’t grow up in a rural community.
So that’s cool. And honestly, not having to have friends because they were your only options in high school because there was like fifty of us. [laughter]
SMITH: It’s also been really interesting to see, some people know nothing about agriculture. Like people can’t tell the difference between sheep and goats. Or the difference between dairy and beef cattle.
There’s a guy I’m friends with, he’s from Arizona, and he doesn’t really know anything. He just calls us the aggies all the time.
Yeah. I don’t know, it feels good to be able to educate people about things that they just never had the opportunity to learn about before.
FITZ: There’s a certain degree of professionalism within AG that not a lot of people think about. Like coming to college, within the first month I went on the fall lobby trip.
I am an Agriculture Communications major, and then after that trip I added Political Science, because having the experience of going to D.C. and meeting with these politicians and actually making a change was so cool.
And we lobbied for the USMCA Trade Agreement and then the Senate just passed it the other day, and it’s like so gratifying to see our changes made!
And I think that’s just something that people don’t understand. When they think of a farmer, they think of an old white guy on a tractor in the field somewhere with cows surrounding him, in overalls.
So we have that kind of image in our head, and then we look at AG as it is today, and we realize that there’s people who dress up every day and then go to the Statehouse - or there’s people that are scientists in a lab finding new ways we can increase our yield so we that can match this growing population.
Being able to even touch the tip of the iceberg with these conversations we’re having with people we’re just meeting in college has been - gratifying.