AREC undergrads among selected students attending USDA Forum
Rubbing elbows and engaging in discussions with elected officials, national policy makers and agricultural industry leaders might be intimidating for some college students. But for AREC major Nathan Lim and Agribusiness minor Gabrielle Rovegno it was an energizing experience that left them wanting more.
Nathan and Gabrielle were among 30 students from across the country selected by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to attend the 2013 Agricultural Outlook Forum held in Arlington, Va. February 21 and 22. Students from universities all over the nation submitted essays on the subject of “Agriculture as a Career” for a chance to attend the forum free of charge.
"In the years ahead, a new generation of food and agricultural professionals will play a key role in solving the major challenges before us," Sec. Vilsack (pictured right) said after announcing the winners of the essay competition in January. "The Outlook Forum will give these students the chance to hear from leading government and industry voices on a broad range of topics, opening and expanding their opportunities to excel in agriculture-related fields."
Gabrielle, who is pursuing a degree in environmental science and technology with a minor in agri-business economics, says the Outlook Forum exposed her to people and opinions she’d never encountered before.
“It was a great opportunity just to meet students from all around the country, all of us approaching agriculture from such different avenues and perspectives,” said Gabrielle, who is set to graduate in May of 2014. “As someone who grew up in the suburbs of New York and then coming to Maryland, it was eye-opening to talk with students who have lived their whole lives in South Dakota, Idaho, Texas, even Puerto Rico about issues like genetically modified crops, the farm bill and organics.”
Nathan, meanwhile, is preparing to graduate this spring with a degree in agricultural and resource economics. While he plans to farm at some point in his future, Nathan says the Outlook Forum gave him a chance to network with professionals from all different sectors of the agricultural field.
“We learned about the future of agriculture from various viewpoints – from policymakers to growers to the middlemen,” Nathan said. “I learned that to overcome the problems with agriculture today all sides need to come together to talk and address the issues together.”
Students like Nathan and Gabrielle received assistance to attend the forum from USDA and corporate sponsors through the Student Diversity Program which seeks to support students attending land-grant, Hispanic-serving, and American Association of State College of Agriculture and Renewable Resources Institutions.