Great Bend Tribune
Published September 23, 2018
First, drought conditions remain pretty much unchanged and except for a portion of northeast Kansas, no part of the state is even abnormally dry. This is quite a departure from last year. Summer row crops are maturing with corn harvest starting up after recent rains. Many fields of soybeans have or are dropping leaves and close to harvest. Most milo fields are turning rapidly and some appear ready for harvest. This is a much better situation overall than last year where harvest was strung out and resulted in many late planted fields. If the weather cooperates, wheat planting should be at or ahead of where producers would like it to be. In fact some fields of wheat and rye, likely planted for grazing and harvest, are already emerged. So as producers prepare and are planting the 2019 wheat crop, let’s focus on a crop where the seed was planted for 2027 harvest.
Several Wednesdays back, the 25th Annual Kids’ Ag Day was held at the Expo Center (due to the weather). The Tribune covered it and Eagle Communications was there doing live remotes. This event is sponsored by the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce and the committee and funding comes from a cross section of people and businesses involved in agriculture directly and indirectly. Fourth graders from across the county attend and are exposed to a broad spectrum of what goes into the food, fiber, and fuel supply. The children are excited, mostly attentive, and eager to learn. It doesn’t hurt to have a day outside and the opportunity of visiting the petting zoo, however, most are genuinely interested in agriculture. The primary purpose of this event as originally conceived was to expose children to how their food was produced in a society further and further removed from the land, even here. But it is also serving another purpose, planting seeds in the mind of students about a potential future career in agriculture. Why does this matter so much is a logical question.
There is an ever growing shortage of qualified or trainable candidates for careers in all aspects in agriculture. Some companies are “lowering their standards” to be able to fill positions and still have trouble. Most facets of the industry have significantly raised wages and increased benefits over the last decade. These positions are typically significantly better compensated than most nonagricultural positions and far more stable. In reality, for committed and hardworking individuals, these positions, with less post-secondary training, often pay much more than jobs requiring more traditional four-year degrees. This isn’t to imply a lack of training but that many of these positions only need a certificate or two year degree. And most of these positions require continuing education. Where does the industry find the necessary employees?
Even if every child born and raised or having grandparents/relatives who farm went into some aspect of agricultural, there simply aren’t enough warm bodies for all the positions needing to be filled. Especially with the need to feed nine billion people over the next twenty or so years. The industry needs to reach out and educate not only these fourth graders but people of all ages about the opportunities, careers (not just jobs), compensation and satisfaction to be found in agriculture. Hopefully, the seed planted several weeks ago will yield a crop the spring of 2027.