Samuelson and others have encouraging words for farm youth

HARRISONBURG—High school and middle school students with an interest in agriculture got some encouraging words recently from a nationally recognized farm news broadcaster and other professionals with ag ties.

"You can’t dream big enough," This Week in Agribusiness and former U.S. Farm Report host Orion Samuelson, 76, told about 60 youth, many wearing blue FFA jackets, when he spoke Oct. 28 at the local Farm Credit of the Virginias office. He quickly asked several teens what kind of careers they want to pursue. "You can do it," he told them. "We need you."

Samuelson, who spoke earlier in the day at a livestock producers’ meeting, said he has attended each National FFA Convention since 1957—before some of his audience’s parents were old enough to attend—"and each year I come away knowing the future of agriculture is in good hands."

He noted that at least 300 agriculture-related careers have been identified for which young adults with an agriculture background and the right education would be well-suited. In addition to farmers, those careers include veterinarians, geneticists, attorneys specializing in property rights issues, and international marketing professionals.

Samuelson said he often is asked whether there’s a future for U.S. agriculture. "Come on!" he said. "That’s one of the dumber questions that’s asked of me."

The event was sponsored in part by Farm Credit and Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers Program. Among the other speakers were Matt Lohr, Virginia’s commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, who recalled getting up early on Saturdays as a child specifically to listen to Samuelson’s program.

Kitty Reed, a cattle territory manager for pharmaceutical company Boehringer-Ingelheim, encouraged the students to pursue as many educational and work opportunities as possible while in school to help them figure out what they want to do. "When I was in college, I had no idea that I would (later) be selling pharmaceutical products to people with cattle," she said. "It never entered my mind."

Ryan Ruppert, a fifth-generation Nebraska rancher and director of beef quality assurance programs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, noted that high school or college is not too early to start making professional contacts. In professional situations, "when you know the right people and you don’t know the answer, you go call those people and you keep looking until you do."

Contact Pam Wiley, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1128.

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