Anna Cappellina
Albert Einstein
Kensington, Maryland
11th Grade
First Place Winner

Agsploring the Future

One day in my AP World History class as we discussed the agrarian revolution my teacher said, “Raise

your hand if you know a farmer.” Three students including myself raised a hand in a classroom of at least

twenty students. Three people. Not even my teacher could say he knew a farmer.

It is common to hear that students want to be lawyers, doctors, athletes, psychiatrists, or accountants,

but it is not as common to hear someone in high school say they want to pursue a field in agriculture.

Especially in the heavily populated suburb outside of Washington D.C. where I live. In fact, overall less

than 3% of college students pursue a career in agriculture (Flatt). When peers ask me, “What do you

want to be when you grow up?” I am always quick to respond, “A large animal veterinarian.” I dream of

examining dairy cattle for pregnancy, completing displaced abomasum surgery, postmortems,

administering vaccinations, and doing herd health checks. Of course, in a suburban high school it is not

easy to have access to a 1,200-pound bovine on which to conduct procedures. In addition to taking

Calculus or English Literature, I would love to take large ruminant anatomy or have a suture lab.

Most people enter high school with no clue as to what they will do to support themselves after

graduation. It oftentimes takes exposure to different fields of study in order to spark an interest in a

career path for a young person. In high school, students should be introduced to the groundwork that can

lead to the pursuit of any career. Many high schools have anatomy classes, sports medicine, cooking, or

woodworking, but very few have agriculture education. There are only about 8,200 high school and

middle school agricultural education programs in the United States (Fritsch) out of about 37,000 public

and private secondary schools (U.S. Department of Education). This number is shocking considering

every living organism requires food to survive and the best way to get food is to grow it. Every high

school should require agriculture classes for graduation. If each high school student had just a little more

knowledge about the components that go into the production of food, raising of livestock, and growing of

crops they might be inspired to take action. To make my high school experience more relevant to my

future I would like to have access to agriculture classes.

The technology era we have entered has provided many benefits for high school students, but also some

drawbacks. Increased technology means internet access to thousands of resources. It means information

is available at the touch of one’s finger, but it also means less emphasis on agriculture exposure

considering the nature of agriculture includes a lot of hands on work. With the availability of computers

and phones we often forget that working with one’s hands can be great for a young brain. Learning how

to grow food and manage animals can teach students responsibility, leadership, independence, and

kindness. High school kids are not getting exposure to a wide variety of careers that are essential to the

world because of the lack of agriculture education. Farmers, lab technicians, fishery managers, food

inspectors, livestock veterinarians, and agronomists, are all examples of extremely important careers

that many high school students never hear about. What high schools need are larger gardens for crop

management, aquariums and barns to raise animals, information about food safety, classes that teach

about sustainability and growth, and funding that allows for programs to educate students about the role

they can play in agriculture. No matter where a high school sits geographically, whether it be a large

urban school in the center of Washington D.C. or a small rural school far away from any big city, hands

on experience is essential for learning. Sometimes it is hard to know what you love and are interested in

until you actually jump right in and do it.

When I first discovered my passion for large animal health, I was completing my first 4-H project. 4-H is a

youth organization where kids complete hands-on projects about a variety of different topics (National 4-

H Council). I selected an almost untouched dairy calf named Chanel to train for the county fair over the

summer. At first it was somewhat intimidating having barely ever touched a cow let alone tried to train

one to follow my commands and wear a halter. After weeks and weeks of hard work gaining Chanel’s

trust, I realized how much I care about these large creatures. Not only cows, but all other types of

livestock. Walking around the ring with a completely calm 700-pound animal listening to me was and still

is empowering, strengthening, and something I greatly enjoy. My 4-H project allowed me to see a lot of

what goes on at a dairy farm. It is quite humbling to see the work that occurs so that everyone can reach

into the refrigerator and grab a healthy glass of milk. Something most people may not know is that a cow

drinks an average of 30-50 gallons of water each day, and eats around 20 pounds of forage. They could

not produce the milk that ends up in grocery stores without that amount of food and water. Although this

is only one part of managing a dairy farm, it is an important one because not only is the food we humans

eat grown through agriculture, but so is the food necessary to feed much of the livestock we raise.

Although I may only be a high school student, I know that whatever I do in the future I want it to involve

agriculture. If my school offered classes tailored to a career in agriculture it would help me learn more

about career opportunities in the field. If more students go into careers in agriculture, we will be able to

produce food in a more sustainable manner, create innovative solutions to problems, and be educated

consumers. One thing I know for sure is that agriculture is extremely important. My generation is going to

have to feed seven to nine billion people. That is no little task. It is going to take a lot of dedicated,

intelligent, and motivated people. We have to come up with a way to save the pollinators whose

populations are declining at a rapid rate. We have to use Integrated Pest Management to figure out how

to protect our crops. We have to use sustainable agriculture practices to conserve our soil. We have to

learn more about genetically modified organisms. Agriculture is what connects us to our roots and what

connects us to our future. It is a necessary industry for every single person on Earth. Many students who

are removed a few generations from the farm forget about where their food is coming from. If asked how

did the milk in your refrigerator get there, they would probably not be able to respond. But if there were

more agriculture classes in high schools across America students could explain the entire process from

cow to grocery store.

There are 60,000 jobs expected to open up in agriculture in the next few years (Goecker). That is 60,000

jobs that my generation can fill. This is why agriculture courses are essential for every high school

student no matter if their school is in the heart of a bustling city or in the middle of a corn field. We all

need food and we should be aware of the process and work that goes into producing it.

Work Cited

Flatt, Bev. “7 Reasons to Give Back to FFA”. 2018 National FFA Organization, February 5, 2019, https://www.ffa.org/ffa-week/7-reasons-to-give-back-to-ffa/. Accessed February 6, 2019.

Fritsch, Julie and Ellen Thompson. “2010-2011 National Teach Ag Campaign Summary Report”. U.S. Department of Education, https://www.naae.org/teachag/2011_Tag_report.pdf. Accessed February 2, 2019.

Goecker, et al. “Employment Opportunities for College Graduates in Food, Agriculture, Renewable Natural Resources, and the Environment”. Purdue University, https://www.purdue.edu/usda/employment/. Accessed February 2, 2019.

National 4-H Council. “What is 4-H?”. 4-H.org, https://4-h.org/about/what-is-4-h/. Accessed February 13, 2019.

U.S. Department of Education. “High School Facts at a Glance”. U.S. Department of Education, June 18, 2014, https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ovae/pi/hs/hsfacts.html. Accessed February 5, 2019.