Young ‘farmers’ plan to pursue a range of careers

  • Rachel McDevitt/StateImpact Pennsylvania

(Harrisburg) — A convention of young farmers at the Pennsylvania Farm Show this week underscored the changing nature of agriculture.

The Pennsylvania Future Farmers of America recognized more than 400 members for reaching the highest achievement at the state level, called the Keystone Degree.

Another 400 high school students received their first blue corduroy FFA jackets, showing their membership in the organization.

Even though the jackets appear uniform, interests among members are diverse.

Not all FFA members are “future farmers” in the traditional sense.

Arilyn Oatman, of Holtwood, Lancaster County, is a FFA state officer who plans to travel internationally to help identify and implement the best sustainable agriculture practices to feed a growing world.

“Nobody is quite super-open to change,” Oatman said, “and so, with wanting to edit those sustainable agriculture practices, depending on the different areas that you are looking at, different cultures, is going to be, definitely, a challenge.”

“But I’m ready for it,” she added.

Other FFA members from Lancaster County Members credited the organization with preparing them to succeed in a number of agriculture-related fields.

“Throughout FFA I’ve really learned that I have a passion for ag business as well as food science,” said Jessica Herr, of West Lampeter, who plans to study business in college, then open a cafe.

Clara Bollinger, of Lititz, said FFA helped her develop leadership skills.

“I’ve learned a lot about public speaking and managing other people and planning events,” she said. Bollinger plans to attend Cornell University in the fall for industrial and labor relations.

Emma Musser, of Mount Joy, said she hopes more people will realize how all-encompassing agriculture is.

“Everything in our everyday life relates to agriculture and I don’t think people understand that enough, and aren’t informed of that enough,” she said.

Musser said agriculture ranges from things like a cup of coffee in the morning to filling a car with gasoline mixed with ethanol made from corn.

She aims to one day own a farm and raise pigs.

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