“What is the biggest challenge you face in your business?” is a question often asked by the Agri-Business Academy students during tours of local agriculture businesses. The answer is almost always the same. “Labor.”
The challenge of finding dependable, hardworking individuals for stable, well-paying careers in agriculture has been a constant battle for agriculturalists for years. As the instructor of the Agri-Business Academy, I’ve spoken with local agri-business people from over 100 local agri-businesses and the need for good employees is a common thread.
The common misconception is that these are not careers, but physically demanding jobs that do not require a college degree and involve a way of life that many would not willingly choose. Today, agri-businesses are usually seeking applicants with college degrees, technology and management experience, and business and communication skills. What is most important is that the compensation aligns with these requirements. In addition, the benefits and satisfaction that comes from working in the agriculture industry is unlike any other.
Agriculture continues to be the number one industry in Genesee County and the driving force of the local economy. When students of the Agri-Business Academy toured Torrey Farms, among the largest agri-businesses in New York state, they heard Maureen Torrey Marshall explain that Torrey Farms does not simply employ a few people in the surrounding community. She described the multiplier effect, which means that other businesses, such as trucking companies, mechanic shops, equipment dealerships, transportation hubs, technology, fuel and fertilizer suppliers, and many others are all part of the agri-business economy. Most people do not recognize the many different aspects of agriculture and the need for individuals with a broad array of interests and expertise. Animal and plant systems, food products and processing, agricultural mechanics, precision agriculture, agri-business networks, international trade, environmental and conservation systems, and energy use are just a few of the trades under umbrella of agriculture.
To ensure that the agriculture community has the employees they need to thrive, and to continue to be the bedrock of our community the Agri-Business Academy is again seeking high school seniors to learn about careers in all aspects of agriculture. The Agri-Business Academy is a one-year partnership program between the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership and Genesee Community College. Through this program, the students earn 15 college credits through the ACE program at Genesee Community College. They spend half the school day in the Agri-Business Academy enrolled in the following five college courses: Western New York Agriculture, Career and Educational Planning, Principles of Business, Principles of Biology and Public Speaking.
Throughout the year students tour area agri-businesses to learn and experience these businesses, job shadow professional producers and at the end of the year each student participates in a two-week internship. This year’s Agri-business Academy students are working at their internships experiencing many different aspects of agri-business—from robotic and organic dairies to maple syrup and crop management and much more. The following locations throughout Western New York are currently sponsoring student internships: DeLaval Dairy Services in Corfu, WBB Farm in Alden, Beaver Meadows Audubon Center in North Java, Merle Maple Farm in Attica, Cottonwood Farms in Pavilion, Cornell Cooperative Extension in Wyoming County, Schierberdale Holsteins, Perry and WNY Crop Management in Warsaw.
If you know of a current junior or underclassman who is interested in business or agriculture, or is unsure of a career path, please encourage them to apply for the Agri-Business Academy at the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership. Through the Agri-Business Academy, students explore the plethora of wonderful careers available to them—locally, internationally or often it is a dynamic blend of both. Whether they like working inside or outside, with their hands or crunching numbers, handling heavy equipment or studying the nuances of soil (agronomy), tending to livestock or discovering how technology can help feed the world—the “Ag Academy” is a career starter.
Jack Klapper, an Agri-Business Academy graduate and Cornell University assistant men’s basketball coach said, “I would recommend this academy to anyone, whether they are pursuing a career in agriculture or not. The life skills I developed in this program are some of the best skills I have ever learned.”
Applications are available at http://www.genesee.edu/home/ace/career-pathways/agri-business-academy/. The first 20 students to submit their application will receive a free Genesee Community College flash drive wristband. Questions? Please do not hesitate to contact me at 585-344-7783 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the Agri-Business Academy on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Agri-Business-Academy-680673051998953/
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Editor’s Note: To visit an area farm that is currently hosting an Agri-business student internship, please contact Kerri Richardson at email@example.com or call 585-344-7783. For photos from this year’s many agri-business student tours, go to the following links:
Photo caption: Agri-business Academy student Cherie Glosser of Warsaw High School with calf at Post Dairy Farms.
Photo caption: Agri-business Academy students at Torrey Farms, in Elba NY
Photo caption: Agri-business Academy students at Porter Farms in Elba, NY
Photo caption: Agri-business Academy students at SJ Starowitz Farm, in Byron NY
Kerri Richardson ~ Agriculture Business Academy Instructor, Genesee Valley Educational Partnership / Batavia Career and Technical Education Center; Genesee Community College Adjunct Instructor