Stories tagged: youth

My Farm Life: Kasey Bamberger

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Agriculture is an industry that is ever-changing and exciting to be a part of, writes Kasey Bamberger, third generation owner of Bryant Agricultural Enterprise. 

I grew up on my family’s home farm located in South West Ohio.  I always took an interest in agriculture and grew up in an environment in which the majority of our conversations around the dinner table were talking about the weather or how the corn crop looked.  Production farming was a huge part of who we were and how we were raised. Being one of four girls, it was not as common to come home to the family farm but as I entered my high school years, I knew that there had to be a place for me.

After graduating high school, I went on to study business management at Wright State University. My passion for business quickly grew and I could not wait to return back to the family farm and begin my career.  Today, I am third generation farmer and the first female to join our family operation. I farm alongside my father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, and 19 hardworking employees.  Our annual commodities consist of corn, soybeans, and soft red winter wheat.  Today we farm in seven different counties, but our home farm still lies on the same property that I grew up on. The original 200-acre farm property has witnessed a lot of history, hard work, and change over the past 65 years.

Just like all other businesses

From the outside looking in, the everyday consumer views a farm as planting and harvesting a crop. Yes, that is a HUGE part of what we do but what the average consumer doesn’t see is the remaining parts of the year that don’t take place in the field. That is where my job lies. Although we are a family farm, we operate just like all other businesses across America.  We have budgets to generate, inventory to control, inputs to purchase, a crop to store, market, and deliver, business relationships to cultivate, and data to manage.  A lot of what I do on a day to day basis is to utilize the technology available to us in order to evaluate our operation. We want to make sure we are always being the most efficient operation in all areas to make sure we are sustainable and here for many more generations to come. We do this by striving to always take care of the land. We lease a lot of the ground that we farm, but tend to it as if each acre was our own.

Kasey and Heath are third-generation owners of Bryant Agricultural Enterprises

Kasey and Heath are third-generation owners of Bryant Agricultural Enterprises

Turning to digital tech

Production agriculture has adapted and became part of a technological world like many other sectors in our world today. Before driverless cars there were GPS operated tractors. Today our operation, Bryant Agricultural Enterprise, uses Granular Ag, a software management company to help us better manage and digest data about our operation. All employees work off an app from their IPhone where they are able to record inputs and time spent on each field. This allows me to be able to oversee production at the field level (rather than at an enterprise level) and track financials back to each field. We are also able to monitor weather, growth stages of the crop, and tap in to the software in our equipment to store equipment information. In the off-seasons we utilize this data to help us prepare for the next growing season and analyze our operation and the inputs we are using.

We also test the  normally do a three-year test plot in order to see how new seed varieties compete against varieties we have grown in the past. The technology allows us to compare different weather patterns, planting dates, soil types and help with our decision to grow those varieties across more acres.

A dynamic career

I found that as the industry changes, we too must adapt to what it offers. There are so many opportunities for young professionals to enter the world of production agriculture and so much knowledge to be gained from the growers that are already part of the industry.

What advice would I give you young agriculture enthusiasts? Take time to reach out to those already in the industry and research the jobs available in agriculture. There are SO many knowledgeable people that are involved in agriculture. Take time to listen to them and utilize their experience. From sales, to marketing, banking, to ag research, information technology, and physically working for a farm–there is a market for all different types of interests and specialties. As the population of the world continues to increase, we need to be able to continue to produce more food. It is an industry that is ever-changing and exciting to be a part of.

 

Putting the Answers to Successful Farming at Young People’s Fingertips

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In this guest blog post, Vanessa Mukhebi of Mediae – the production company behind agricultural reality TV shows Shamba Shape Up and Don’t Lose the Plot – discusses the digital innovations helping farmers with agronomic and budgeting challenges. By harnessing the digital boom, she argues that more African youth can be enticed into agricultural careers.

It is often said that youth carry the potential to transform agricultural productivity and contribute to global food security for a booming population that is set to increase by two billion by 2050. However, debating the future of farming and rural development is pointless without the willingness of the youth themselves to engage in the sector. This potential can only be realised through an image overhaul of farming.

Yet several solutions to this challenge exist right in their back pockets.

The drawback of farming-related careers in preference for white collared employment in urban areas, is partly on account of the societal prejudices and misconceptions held about such careers, as well as the limited knowledge about the opportunities available in agricultural industry that are economically prosperous.

Fortunately, through rapid advancement in information and communication technologies, and increased access to the internet through mobile devices, agriculture in the developing world has become a vibrant field full of effective and creative innovations.

And with young people already predisposed to this digital revolution, these solutions provide unparalleled access to information to help them take advantage of the exciting opportunities within the industry.

In countries like Kenya, where overstretched extension services are unable to adequately support producers, mobile solutions such as iShamba, offer the ability to disseminate timely and relevant information regarding production, input supplies, weather updates and market price information.

ishamba

Additionally, the farmer information and advisory service is equipped with a call centre staffed with agricultural experts, where farmers can SMS or call to get instant advice seven days a week.

Farming communities can also exchange information with each other through the service’s location-based WhatsApp groups and get advice from iShamba’s agricultural experts on best farming practices. Simon Mwangi, a young farmer from Nyeri, Kenya, says that the platform helped him venture into farming.“Thanks to iShamba’s agronomic advice, I managed to grow tomatoes for the first time. I have already started harvesting my tomatoes and they are doing well.” 

Though the platform is highly interactive, the challenge remains on how best to engage youth.

The appeal of farming to young people hinges on its ability to be recast and marketed as a profitable enterprise; agribusiness has to be promoted in favour of agriculture.

Our newest reality television show called Don’t Lose the Plot is aiming to do just that – stem the exodus of rural youth to urban areas and encourage them into agribusiness.

Set on a sprawling farm on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, the show follows four young farmers from Kenya and Tanzania, who are given one acre plots to farm side-by-side for nine months. At the end, the farmer with the most profitable and sustainable business wins an agricultural investment worth US$10,000.

Each young farmer had access to a panel of advisors that critiqued their ideas and approach while encouraging them to use modern, labour saving techniques to make the most of their land. After developing a business plan for their farm, they got access to financing, set up their farms, managed them and marketed their produce profitably.

Ken, one of the contestants from Kenya, lauded the show for exposing him to the opportunities that young people such as himself have at their disposal to improve their livelihoods. “I see this competition as an eye opener, to the resources that we have in our country. To increase food security, and to try to solve the unemployment issue amongst youth. I think I’m doing something great here.”

Nevertheless, what was evident right from the start is that young farmers need assistance in creating realistic budgets and managing their finances.

Enter Budget Mkononi, the web-based agricultural budgeting tool initiated by the producers of Don’t Lose the Plot, The Mediae Company, and Mercy Corps AgriFin Accelerate.

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The tool allows young aspiring and inexperienced farmers to view estimated costs and profits from various commodities that are high-value and short-term such as broilers and onions.

Through Budget Mkononi, hopeful entrepreneurs can explore the relative merits of each and visualise their cash flow requirements for the duration of the farming cycle, showing young farmers how to farm in a productive and sustainable manner.

Developed by Regulus Ltd, the tool is designed specifically for use on mobile devices and went through several stages of user-testing to ensure that it met the needs of its target audience.  The interactive functionality also allows farmers to customise their budgets based on their specific circumstances.

What’s apparent is that with such solutions at hand, the days that farming was the domain of the uneducated are gone.

Connectivity through ICTs enables solutions such as iShamba and Budget Mkononi to shape a new frontier of farming that is young, vibrant and innovative. All youth need to know, is that success is within their reach – right under their fingertips.

A longer version of this article first appeared in the World Farmers’ Organisation Farmletter.

Global Food Security Symposium 2017: Making Food Security the Focus in Uncertain Times

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Amid recent turbulent political shifts around the world, a new report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs puts food security at the heart of global peace and prosperity. Launched at the Council’s two-day Global Food Security Symposium in Washington DC, the report – Stability in the 21st Century – calls on political leaders to make food security a pillar of national security policies.

The authors highlighted links between high food prices and unrest, and said commitments to end hunger and malnutrition were more important than ever to address the challenges of instability, climate change and a growing young population.

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Can We Turn Generation Yum into Generation Ag?

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This week, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs is exploring the issue of youth as the future of agriculture – a key topic at their upcoming Global Food Security Symposium in March. Farming First Co-Chairs Robert Hunter and Yvonne Harz-Pitre have penned an article for this blog series asking: “Can we turn Generation Yum into Generation Ag?

As the author of Generation Yum, Eve Turow, explains in her book – young people in the developed world care much more about the quality, nutritional value, and provenance of their food than previous generations. This wave of interest comes at a critical moment, this article argues. Our food system faces the colossal challenge of doubling production to feed a growing global population as natural resources dwindle and a changing climate takes its toll. So can the agricultural community encourage this powerful cohort not only to care about food, but to actually shape its future by taking up careers in agriculture? Continue reading

Jhannel Tomlinson: Feeding the Appetite for Sustainable Tourism

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In this guest blog, Jhannel Tomlinson, YPARD country representative for Jamaica, looks at the potential for growth in agro-tourism as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism gets under way. 

For the tourist hoping to experience authentic local cuisine on one of our famous golden beaches, they may be disappointed to know that only a small fraction of food in our hotels is provided by local farmers and fishermen, with the majority being imported from areas outside the Caribbean basin. Unfortunately, inconsistencies in quality and quantity of produce, natural disasters and limited access to inputs mean that our farmers are unable to meet the aggressive demands of the sector.

However, despite these challenges, there is a way for farmers and foreigners to take advantage of the fruits of our lands. Agro-tourism, a niche but growing market within the tourism industry, offers tourists an authentic experience embedded in local food and culture and combines “rural aesthetics” with agricultural production into a dynamic tourist package. It gives the traveller the opportunity to delve into environmental, cultural and agricultural activities. And, often nestled in verdant areas of low commercial development, the farmer can also create revenue. This seeding of the linkages between agriculture and tourism can be an opportunity for farmers who have been “left behind” to utilise their livelihoods to the benefit of themselves and their communities.

Strengthening the link: Tourism and agriculture

Nutrition, health and wellness are among global trends that have spurred the growth of agro-tourism, and the Caribbean is especially poised to take advantage of these benefits, given its climate produces a continuous growing season. It makes it easier for visitors to witness the movement of produce from “farm to fork”. For example, the Belmont Estate, in Grenada is a fair-trade certified business which offers a tour of the plantation where visitors are able to witness chocolate production. Woodford Market Garden, a small organic farm in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, also provides a guided tour of its plant nurseries, open field plots and edible garden. In realizing this potential, policymakers across the Caribbean have formulated a regional strategy which seeks to provide the visions, goals and targets necessary to capitalize on the opportunities available to both tourism and agriculture. As a result, many institutions have been able to provide unique services to their guests effectively and have further been able to maintain successful and sustainable business models.

Yet despite these accomplishments, there is a specific group that represents an even greater opportunity for growing sustainable agriculture: youth.

The role of youth in ‘A-grow-tourism’

As in many parts of the world, the number of young people considering a future in agriculture sadly remains low, with many put off by the high risks and low levels of investment. Nevertheless, there are several worthwhile initiatives to help young people enter agriculture. The Caribbean Agriculture Forum for Youth (CAFY), the FAO/FIDA-Youth Caribe, the 4H Initiative, YPARD Country Chapters and IICA’s Virtual Business Incubator and Resource Hub for Caribbean Youth are among the programs and platforms that provide information and knowledge to young farmers and agropre- neurs across the Caribbean on the essential steps to becoming involved in and creating agriculture-based businesses.

And young people have a crucial role to play in helping to build the growing agro-tourism industry. With the majority of the world’s food being produced by ageing smallholder farmers, the next generation are more likely to adopt new, innovative ideas that have the potential to attract touristic interest and investment. Technology is one of the greatest tools of youths and Tech4Agri, a youth driven online media startup based in Trinidad and Tobago, is a testament to this. The platform helps realise the multitude of technological applications in agriculture and supports the development of young agropreneurs by providing an interesting and innovative agri-information service. Young agropreneurs could also develop similar platforms to promote agro-tourism, utilizing the internet for activities such as video blogs showcasing testimonials, meal preparations and on-farm activities, which can then be the basis for their marketing strategies.

Soaps, oils and lotions from the Yaphene line

Soaps, oils and lotions from the Yaphene line

The youth of the Caribbean is also perfectly placed to capitalize on the beauty and tranquility associated with agro-tourism, showcasing their talents in creating natural, organic, beauty treatments from the “fountain of youth”. Yaphene, a gourmet boutique based in St. Kitts, makes organic hair and skin care products using natural butters, oils, dried and fresh herbs and its vision is to become the island’s premier natural beauty product producer. Ibis Beauty Box is another modern, natural botanical skincare line that embodies the rich heritage of the Caribbean. Its inspiration stems from the indigenous and local Caribbean flora and the urge to create an extraordinary natural, organic and lifestyle brand.

While technology and beauty are important factors to consider, guests are often most intrigued by the delicious dishes that form the gastronomic component of agro-tourism. Taste of Eden, a business located in Paix Bouche, a village in Dominica, produces green seasonings and herbal tea bags. Tahomey Chocolate Company based in Haiti provides ongoing income for an estimated 50 people, and Dada B’s, a Jamaican based business in value-added agricultural products is seeking to become one of the Caribbean’s largest agricultural producers and food manufacturers (Caribbean 360, 2016). All three businesses are currently owned by young agropreneurs who stand to benefit from tourists’ desire to experience food being moved along the chain from the farm to final packaging. Chefs for Development, an effort being spear- headed by IICA and CTA further seeks take advantage of this by training young local chefs in both using and promoting local ingredients to prepare high quality dishes. Given such start-ups, it is evident that not all youth across the Caribbean have given up on agriculture; many are putting their time and effort into realizing their dreams. For the unconverted youth however, it is important to promote a change in the way agriculture is currently being perceived by increasing the awareness of different subsectors such as agrotourism and the opportunities that these markets hold for the youth.

While sensitization and improving awareness of opportunities are critical, targeted training will also prove useful in building skills in the sub-areas related to agriculture. Such training may encourage the youth to be more involved as it helps to view agriculture as more than just a mere farm but as a viable business. For these businesses to be able to materialize, governments should invest in their young agropreneurs by producing incentives, low interest loans and startup capital to these young business enthusiasts. Paolo Silveri, IFAD’s Country Programme Manager responsible for the design of the FAO/FIDA-Youth Caribe programme, said: ”With youth unemployment rates that are among the highest in the world, reinventing the role of Caribbean youth in agriculture is critical both for the region’s future and, more importantly, for young women and men themselves.”( FAO, 2015).

Agrotourism could well hold the greatest potential to increase the involvement of the youth in agriculture, opening up innovative and creative opportunities to build successful and sustainable businesses. Where there is a supportive environment, the youth will be able to find groundbreaking ways to create a future for themselves while contributing to the overall well-being of their communities.

Photo collage credit (l-r):
Belmont Estate IICA/CTA,2015
Fermented beans on display during the chocolate tour at Belmont Estate
Woodford Market Garden Woodford Market Garden, 2016
Lush green vegetables in the gardens at Woodford
Yaphene Yaphene n Flauriel Foods, 2016 
Soaps, oils and lotions from the Yaphene line

#IamAg! Meet Rossmery, Animal Scientist from Peru

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This is the seventh post in our new series “I am Agriculture”, that showcases the many careers available to young people in agriculture. Today’s post comes from Rossmery Daza La Plata, who is a Production Manager at South East Pacific Farm SAC.

When I was younger, I dreamed of studying something related to nature. I got this passion from my grandparents, who were involved in livestock keeping in the north of Peru. We lived in the capital, but I would always look forward to the holidays, when I could go to their farm to help them. When we were very small, my father taught my siblings and I how to manage the cattle, to milk the cows, ride horses and cultivate the land. He had learnt all this from his own father. We eventually left the city, and my father took on the farm, and now I’m learning how to as well.
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