Posts Tagged ‘Agriculture’

Know Your Farmer

Friday, March 18th, 2011


This week not only brings us more hours of daylight, warmer temperatures and the promise of spring, it’s the annual celebration of National Agriculture Day, which this year features the theme, “Your Food, Your Farmer.”

Farming is such an integral part of our lives, it can be easy to take farmers for granted. But try surviving without them: According to the American Farm Bureau, the average U.S. farmer is responsible for feeding 155 people each year. And that’s three times the amount produced per farmer 50 years ago.

The good news is that the past several years have witnessed a growing awareness of the food we eat — and where it comes from. For example, a resurgence in Farmers Markets, which now total more than 6,100 cross-country, bring locally produced fruits and vegetables, meats, cheese, flowers and breads to consumers in every state in the nation, and bring the community face-to-face with the people behind their agriculture.

At the same time, the Farm-to-School initiative, launched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), gets kids involved in agriculture from an early age. The program uses classroom lessons, farm tours and even hands-on planting of community gardens as some of the many ways to help children understand how their food reaches their plates.

Meanwhile, the USDA website, “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food,” introduces all of us to the bountiful ways that farmers, large and small, make a difference in our lives, whether it’s by promoting healthy eating, protecting natural resources or strengthening rural communities and economies.

Check out the Agrowknowledge website for career ideas and educational resources in the farming and agricultural industries. They’re growing fields – literally and figuratively!

Tools of the Trade: What’s New In Agriculture

Friday, February 11th, 2011


It’s been more than 20 years since affordable geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS) first came into widespread use, enabling the farm industry to plant and maintain crops with “precision.” Since then, numerous other innovations – automatic steering, seed and spray applications, and web-based technology, to name just a few – have made Precision Agriculture a standard way of doing business, with its efficient technologies and environmentally sound practices.

This week, World Ag Expo, “the world’s largest annual agriculture exposition celebrating 44 years of innovative agriculture” examines New Tools for Agri-Business. We looked at a few of the “Top 10 New Products of 2011” and how they further add to the “precision” of Precision Agriculture.

We’ll start with a decidedly low-tech innovation known as the AG Flag. As developer Mike Hansen explains on the World Ag Expo website, this “farmer-friendly” water-activated device helps farmers save money, water and effort by eliminating guesswork. “It’s an incredibly simple way to signal when your flood irrigation water reaches the pre-determined location in your field or crop and that it’s time to change or shut off the water.” Mounted at the end of a 5-foot long pole, the AG Flag springs up when irrigation water dissolves a strip of paper that secures the flag; once released and upright, the bright orange flag can be seen up to a mile away.

Meanwhile, World Ag Expo also tells us that a new software system called Connected Farm is helping increase farm management efficiency by combining precision farming information collected in the field with data management software and cell phone technology. According to a company spokesperson, the software provides users with an easy, secure wireless transfer of production records from the field to the office, and back to the field, enabling employees to work off the same set of data and simultaneously receive updates — no matter how far away from one another they may be.

And a new rugged tablet computer from Trimble Yuma is designed to work where farmers and ranchers work – in scorching summer heat and sub-zero winter cold, not to mention in driving rain and blinding snow and dusty, muddy conditions. So, as the World Ag Expo website explains, instead of using crop management or livestock monitoring software only in the office, this new portable device – weighing less than three pounds – lets farmers bring it into the field or barn, operating on two rechargeable batteries.

If you’d like to learn more about the educational opportunities available in the field of Precision Agriculture, check out the websites of Kirkwood Community College, or Agrowknowledge, the National Resource Center for Agriscience and Technical Education, where you’ll find plenty of information and resources, including educational and career opportunities available in the Agricultural Industry.

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Job Search
What do you want to be when you grow up?

No doubt you were asked that question countless times throughout childhood, when an answer of “astronaut” or “President of the United States” would have been greeted with enthusiasm by your parents and other adults.

But now the question is real, and it’s time to figure out a career path. How do you begin?

You might start with an exercise that is known as the “Career Interest Game,” also referred to as “The Party Game” in the job hunter’s bible, What Color Is Your Parachute? This exercise is based on the theory that people and work environments can be loosely classified into six different groups (Conventional, Realistic, Artistic, Enterprising, Social or Investigative) and that different personalities are better suited to different careers and workplaces.

The Career Interest Game has been adapted specifically for the agriculture industry by AgrowKnowledge, the National Center for Agriscience & Technology Education. So, if you’re interested in the field of agriculture, but aren’t certain what type of job you might like, the AgrowKnowledge Interest Inventory is a great place to start investigating career options.

Here’s how it works: Users review three categories of questions and check off all the answers that are applicable to them. So, for example, the first category, which focuses on 35 separate personality traits, asks participants if they are “helpful,” “outgoing,” “friendly,” “athletic,” etc.

The next category also has 35 possible responses, this time focusing on an individual’s particular skills (Can you….“lead a group;” “teach/train others;” “use a computer;” “solve mechanical problems,” etc.)

Finally, the third category gauges users’ general interests with 35 questions that begin “Do you like to…..” Options include such interests as “be physically active,” “read fiction, plays and poetry,” “participate in meetings,” or “tinker with mechanics.”

Once you have responded to all three categories of questions, the AgrowKnowledge Interest Inventory Results will calculate how you match up with the six different groups we talked about earlier, and offer a list of careers in the agricultural industry that might be a good fit for you.

For example, if your inventory results were primarily in the “Realistic” category, AgroKnowledge suggests a comprehensive list of different career options, including Agriculture Product Assembler, Fisheries Technician, Forest and Conservation Worker, and GPS Technician, for starters. Or, if you scored highest in the Social category, AgroKnowledge suggests jobs such as Park Manager or Extension Agent. Descriptions of each job are included.

This simple — and fun — exercise could wind up paying off. As Richard Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute? recently noted in the 2011 edition of the guidebook, job searches take time and energy no matter what — so you may as well look for a job that really fits “you” and gets you excited about getting up in the morning!

Agricultural Geospatial Technology

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

FarmerWhat is Geospatial Data?

In this week’s Episode of ATETV, we were re-introduced to Dan Miller, a student at Kirkwood Community College, studying Precision Agriculture and Agricultural Geospatial Technology.

According to the Kirkwood website, “Agricultural Geospatial Technology students prepare to work in the emerging geospatial technology industry…The two-year program includes courses in computers, GPS, ArcView and data collection, in addition to agronomy and agriculture economics.”

As part of this program, Dan is taking a class called Geospatial Data Collection, which introduces students to GPS and spatial data, and the many applications these technologies have in the field of agriculture.

GPS or Global Positioning Systems are an integral part of today’s farming industry. The technologies, which pinpoint locations via satellite-based remote sensors to within a meter of any given location, help farmers adjust for the fact that any area of land can contain wide variations in soil types, nutrient availability, erosion and soil moisture..

And as Dan and other Kirkwood students are learning through their own “real-world” projects, there are ample ways to apply these geospatial data collection processes. Here are some of their projects, described in students’ own words:

Produce Relocation. “Our family operates a vegetable farm for which we provide produce for many local grocery stores [as well as] for Wal-Mart. In the past, record-keeping has been through paper hand-drawn maps. But this paper method makes it difficult to manage fertilizer, yield and pest-control systems. [My project] will determine where the best place to plant is to plant our vegetables next year…through soil sampling, making boundaries and recording past plantings.”

Addressing the Iowa Flood. “I’m going to plot out corn crops in areas that were affected by the recent floods in Iowa. I hope to document the area lost to the flood and identify problems with areas that remain as crop ground.”

Creating a Map of Iowa Lake. “I am going to be working with the staff of Iowa Lake [to create] a detailed map for use by fishermen. I will walk around the lake and get a boundary layer and will use my boat to map and identify structures with the lake. I also will be laying a grid over the lake of 10-yard by 10-yard squares and taking the depth of the water.”

Dan Miller told ATETV that he’d like to take his GPS experience back to his own family’s farm. But as he also notes, his Geospatial Data Collection class has opened his eyes to other job options as well – for example, positions in the fields of construction or natural resources, or other positions in the agricultural industry.

To learn more about precision farming and GPS applications, check out this backgrounder from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

ATETV Episode 42- Community Colleges: A Launching Pad for New Careers

Monday, July 19th, 2010

This week, we look at some of the ways that community colleges can provide students with a career boost – whether they are just starting out in high school or getting a fresh start with a mid-career job transition.

In our first segment, we talk with Dennis Trenger of Stark State Community College, where the college’s Dual Enrollment Program provides students with the opportunity to take college-level classes and pursue an Associate’s degree while still in high school.

“[Stark State] is working a lot more with high school superintendants and curriculum directors,” Dennis explains. “[This way we ensure that] what they’re teaching in high school is in alignment with what students will need for college.”

Student Michael Bucklew took advantage of the Early College Program at Timken High School and recently graduated from Stark State with a degree in Electromechanical Engineering – while still in high school. “The Early College Program is designed so that…the inner city kid can go to college,” Michael explains. And with this educational boost, he adds, students can be well on their way to rewarding careers at an early age.

“[Our] collaborations with middle schools, high schools and colleges are extremely important,” explains Dennis Trenger. “[We provide building blocks] so that students can progress….they don’t have to start all over again [when they’ve finished high school.]

Similarly, as we learn in our second segment, community colleges can help individuals who are looking to make a career change. Steve Hardister is studying Simulation and Game Development at Wake Technical College with the aim of making a job transition from the printing industry to a career in 3D graphics.

“I’d reached a salary cap [working in the printing industry] so I decided to make a transition,” explains Steve. “The advantage of taking courses here at Wake Tech is that you are immersed in the actual modeling and hands-on gaming experience….you do learn some theory, but you also get involved in [hands-on] modeling and animation very quickly.”

While Steve hopes to transition into a career that will enable him to develop simulations for educational purposes or do 3D modeling and animation for the entertainment industry, the skills provided with a degree in Simulation and Game Development can also be applied to such diverse industries as the automotive industry or even NASA.

Finally, in the third segment, we visit Kirkwood Community College, where the Precision Agriculture program is getting a lot of support from industry in today’s rapidly growing marketplace.

“For many years, Precision Agriculture kind of plateaued and farmers didn’t really see the value of this technology,” explains Kirkwood’s Terry Brase. “But with the newest technologies, such as guidance systems, a lot of farmers are excited and it seems like we cannot graduate enough students to meet the field’s demands.”

Kirkwood graduate Dan Bosman agrees. “As technology progresses, there’s going to be a larger need for people with [Precision Agriculture] skills. You could find a job working for a cooperative chemical company, for seed dealers….anybody who uses or is involved in agriculture and uses technology [will need employees with these skills, which go well beyond traditional farming.]”

ATETV Episode 26: Growing a Competitive Workforce

Monday, March 15th, 2010

This week, we learn about an agriculture curriculum and an Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Center of Excellence that are helping to promote growth — literally and figuratively!

In our first segment, we meet Dan Miller, a student in the GPS and GIS program at Kirkwood Community College who is studying to be a “cutting-edge” farmer.

“I grew up on a farm with my father, and that’s what started my interest in the field of agriculture,” says Dan. And, through Kirkwood’s GPS/GIS program, Dan is preparing to work in in the emerging geospatial technology industry. As one of only a handful of precision agriculture programs in the nation, Kirkwood’s curriculum provides students with courses in computers, GPS (Global Positioning Systems), ArcView and data collection, in addition to agronomy and agriculture economics.

GPS technology has complemented Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for a number of years. “GPS is used in a lot of tractors, but also has a lot of other applications,” notes Dan. “There’s an infinite amount of options to use in the field of agriculture right now. This program has opened my eyes to all of the programs that are available to use in our family farm operation or to help me create my own business.”

Even if Dan decides not to pursue a career in farming, the skills he’s gaining through this program can translate into numerous other careers, including construction, natural resources or other agricultural careers. But for now, Dan says, “Once I graduate my passion is to go back home and farm with my Dad. That’s what I’ve always enjoyed and that’s what I really want to do.”

In our second segment, we visit the South Carolina ATE Center of Excellence at Florence-Darlington Technical College, which has developed proven models and successful practices to improve education — and ensure a competitive, technologically savvy workforce for the future.

“We have worked one-on-one with a number of educators and other organizations around the country to develop practices and strategies that we know will increase the quantity, quality and diversity of engineering technicians and support economic development,” explains Elaine Craft. And she adds, all of today’s education research is pointing to the value of hands-on, inquiry-based learning.

“Without a hands-on experience that puts things in context and forces students to grapple a bit, the information doesn’t stick and students don’t know how to use the information the next time they encounter it,” she notes. At Florence-Darlington, a series of changes that were initially implemented to meet the learning styles of a particular group of students,are now being used to make learning more meaningful for all students.

“We entirely changed the way we approach the first year of study, integrating mathematics, physics, technology and communications,” adds Elaine. “We also have an internship program, so we can now provide students with opportunities to work while they’re enrolled in school.” Known as a “Grow-Your-Own” approach, the internship enables students to “grow up” with an industry during their two years of school, ultimately producing a good match between the graduate and the job.

The South Carolina Advanced Technological Education Center (SC ATE) is now working with community colleges and industry partners on improving Engineering Technology programs at two-year colleges not only in South Carolina, but across the country. As this week’s episode demonstrates, today’s technology students can grow and thrive in many different ways!

ATETV Episode 23: One Degree, Multiple Possibilities

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

This week, we explore some of the many different paths you can take with a degree in Information and Communications Technologies and learn more about the applications of Precision Agriculture.

First, we delve deeper into the fields of Information and Communications Technologies. “I think students are naturally drawn to careers in IT and ICT. They are immersed in it. Telecommunications, networking, security, wireless…. they live, eat and breathe this stuff, “says Mike Qaissaunee of Brookdale Community College, “and they assume they know everything about it, just because they do it every day.” But once these same students are in a class, the picture changes and it becomes more about the mechanics of how things work. With this new information and the hands-on experiences provided at local community colleges, students interested in Information and Communications Technologies graduate with many different options available to them.

The same is true for those students graduating from programs in Agriculture Technology. As farmers work to make their industries more productive and efficient, those with a background and experience in Precision Agriculture become more and more in demand. Precision Agriculture is the application of mapping technologies like GPS/GIS systems to better understand in-field variability. This allows farmers to adjust for localized differences relative to specific areas and crops. Students studying this can expect to find opportunites working with seed dealers, seed companies, farmers, cooperatives, chemical companies and many more.

One thing is certain, with a degree in advanced technology comes plenty of job security and many possible career choices! The only challenge maybe deciding on one! Thanks for watching.