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Natural food industry missing opportunity with future farmers

Dave Carter IdeaXchange

One of the most important annual trade shows for the organic and natural food business is coming up October 19-21st in Indianapolis. Too bad hardly anyone from the organic and natural food business will be there.

It’s the FFA National Convention, where more than 60,000 high school students and their agricultural advisors will gather to explore options and alternatives for a career in agriculture. Many of us still remember FFA as Future Farmers of America. The organization changed its name to FFA a few years back, but the focus is still clearly on farming, ranching and agricultural related businesses.

In between educational sessions and recreational activities next week, the students will be roaming the trade show floor visiting with universities and agribusiness companies, all eager to help guide their path into agricultural careers. The exhibitors will also be plying the accompanying teachers with stacks of material to be used in the classroom when they return to their rural communities.

With the need for additional organic acreage and crop production a constant concern for companies in the natural and organic food sector, the FFA convention is fertile ground for planting the seeds for future growth.

So, who’s planning to interact with the students from the natural food industry? Organic Valley will continue its tradition of having a booth staffed by some of its member-farmers. I’ll be there for the seventh straight year with the National Bison Association booth. And … umm … well … I guess that’s about it.

Don’t worry, DuPont and Dow AgriScience are shipping their booths to the Indianapolis convention center this week. The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers’ booth will be sandwiched between Monsanto’s massive pavilion and Bayer’s slightly smaller exhibit. Syngenta will likely be offering some type of fun activity for the students visiting its pavilion.

The future of American agriculture is being established in vocational ag classrooms in high schools in rural communities across the countryside. Gatherings such as the National FFA convention are a perfect opportunity to connect with those future leaders and their advisors.

I’ve discovered through the past several years that many students and their teachers are hungry for information and guidance on alternatives to traditional large-scale conventional agriculture. FFA is provides us with a forum to feed that hunger.

There’s an old saying that decisions are made by those who show up. It’s time for the organic and natural products industry to start showing up at the venues where the next generation of American farmers and ranchers are making their career decisions.

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