HERKIMER CO., N.Y. — As students made their way among exhibitors at the third annual Farming Your Future, chatter filled the air from students talking to the presenters or to each other about everything from what they were learning to how the samples of cheese tasted.
That type of important student engagement makes itself clear right away, Herkimer County Legislator Greg Malta Sr. said, during Farming Your Future.
“No matter what event you go to, you can tell if it’s going to be worthwhile because you can hear the buzz, the excitement,” he said. “They’re outside. They’re getting fresh air. It’s great.”
About 700 students from more than 20 school districts and BOCES programs visited about 40 exhibitors, watched demonstrations and heard from guest speakers during the third annual Farming Your Future on Friday, Oct. 4 at the Herkimer County Fairgrounds.
Farming Your Future is organized by the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers program and STC Agriculture Committee in collaboration with Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES and Madison-Oneida BOCES.
Farming Your Future is an opportunity for students in grades 7-9 in the three-BOCES region to explore careers in agriculture. Students learn about jobs in the agriculture field and interact with local professionals in the industry through hands-on exhibits, presentations, guest speakers, live animals and more.
Herkimer BOCES would like to thank all of the exhibitors, speakers, sponsors, student volunteers, other volunteers, attending students, government guests and more for their support of Farming Your Future.
‘An exciting moment’
Farming Your Future opened with guest speakers starting with comments from Herkimer BOCES School to Careers liaison and work-based learning coordinator MaryBeth Napolitano and state Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon.
Buttenschon also read a letter from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“It is a pleasure to send greetings to everyone gathered for Farming Your Future,” Cuomo wrote in the letter. “I’m always proud to see events like these happening in our communities. Today marks an exciting moment for BOCES, as this event will provide students with the opportunity to explore careers in agriculture, paving the way for them to become valued members of their communities. I thank Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES, Madison-Oneida BOCES and Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES, and all who made this day possible for your ongoing exemplary commitment to empowering the success of our future leaders. With warmest regards and best wishes for an enjoyable, productive day.”
The opening speeches were then given in front of all students. Dave Lamouret, a consultant for the first net-energy-zero farm in New York state, was the career keynote speaker and talked about his experiences in agriculture. Carly Curtis, a senior at Mount Markham and president of the Mount Markham FFA, was the FFA student speaker and talked about attending a leadership conference for FFA members in Washington, D.C.
Curtis said she hopes all students to experience the conference some day because it was great.
“It truly changed my life,” she said. “This conference meant everything to me.”
Later, Curtis said her interest in agriculture came from having a grandfather, grandmother and father who were farmers. When her grandfather passed away, her desire to be in agriculture increased.
“Everything that he did, I wanted to represent,” she said.
While agriculture has a large variety of career paths, it’s important to keep people interested in farming still too, Curtis said.
“Farming is a dying industry, and it can’t be because without farmers, you can’t have food on your table,” she said.
‘So much more’
Following the speeches, students spent the majority of the day visiting the exhibitors at Farming Your Future. Students learned about agriculture careers in fields including technology and equipment, agriculture and forestry, plant science, agribusiness, end products and animal care and livestock. The event ended with lunch, along with animal and drone demonstrations.
Napolitano said Farming Your Future shows students there are a large a variety of career options in agriculture.
“The main thing everybody thinks about agriculture, they think about cows and they think about plows, but there’s so much more to it,” she said.
Napolitano also pointed out that the event empowers students. Many students were tour guides, showed leadership, prepared the lunches and gave presentations.
Tina Douglas, a member of the Herkimer BOCES School to Careers Agriculture Committee, also spoke about the wide range of careers presented at the event.
“It’s really important,” she said. “We need to show the students that agriculture is still a viable potential career.”
Douglas specifically pointed out potential careers in agriculture technology such as being an electrician.
“The technology is amazing, and I think we need to show students that it’s a potential career for them.”
Amy Langner, soil scientist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was one of the exhibitors.
“When I asked them, most of them hadn’t heard about a soil scientist, and I didn’t when I was little,” she said. “And we need them.”
Lagner said she talked to students about how soil scientists working with organic material and carbon in soil can mitigate climate change.
She thought it was a great event overall.
“It’s an excellent opportunity for students to learn about agriculture,” she said.
‘A great learning experience’
Westmoreland seventh-graders James Gleason and Andrew Holzhauer were viewing a beehive from Ford’s Honey Farm during part of Farming Your Future.
“I just like looking at these things,” James said.
James learned during the event that traditional farming is just one of many career options, he said.
“I like it,” he said, of Farming Your Future. “One thing I like is that there’s free food. I also like learning about agriculture.”
Andrew also enjoyed looking at the beehives.
“It’s pretty neat,” he said, adding that he enjoyed Farming Your Future overall. “I think it’s actually a pretty cool event.”
During the event, Andrew learned how many aspects there are to agriculture.
“I actually am pretty surprised by that,” he said. “I thought it was mostly driving a tractor across the field. It’s a lot more complicated than that.”
Frankfort-Schuyler seventh-graders Tori Helmer, Philip Tangorra and Cameron Gonyea were petting cows from Double S Farm later during Farming Your Future.
The cows were Tori’s favorite part of the event, which she enjoyed in general.
“I think it’s a lot of fun,” she said. “It’s a great learning experience.”
Tori said one thing she didn’t know before was that banks work with farmers to help them, and Philip said he learned how involved drones are with agriculture and flying over crop fields.
“I didn’t realize that they surveyed everything like that,” Philip said.
It’s excited that students get to actually meet agriculture professionals at Farming Your Future and learn about what they do and how they do it.
“So if we ever get the feeling to do it, we can have an opportunity to,” he said
Philip said the drones were his favorite part of the event, and he would recommend Farming Your Future to other students.
“It’s definitely a learning experience,” he said.
On a cold, windy day, Tori added one more recommendation she would give to future attendees.
“To have fun and layer up,” she said.
Cameron also said he had a fun time.
“I liked the event because I like to pet the animals, and it’s pretty cool,” he said.
Cameron learned about how drones are used in agriculture, he said.
“I like to fly drones,” he said.
‘Another very successful event’
Local, state and federal officials attended Farming Your Future and expressed their support for the event. Some of the attendees included Buttenschon, state Assemblyman Brian Miller, state Assemblyman John Salka, state Assemblyman Robert Smullen, U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi’s district director Sarah Bormann, Herkimer and Oneida County Legislators and Richfield Springs Town Planning Board member Dan Sullivan.
Herkimer County Legislator Robert Schrader browsed exhibitors with Legislator Malta.
“This is definitely a great event, and it gets the youth to be interested in the agriculture industry,” Schrader said, before commenting on the level of student engagement. “It’s nice to see the students not on their electronic devices.”
Oneida County Legislator Keith Schiebel attended wearing two hats because he also is the coordinator of special projects for New York State Maple, which provided a Maple Experience truck at Farming Your Future. The truck is new this year and travels all over New York state with a focus on New York City. Last week, Madison students presented in the Bronx. At Farming Your Future, the Maple Experience presentations were done by Mount Markham students and a Madison student.
Schiebel was happy to see how the third annual Farming Your Future turned out.
“Another very successful event – continuing to engage our youth in experiencing agriculture careers,” he said.
State Assemblymen Miller, Salka and Smullen visited many of the exhibitors during the event and listened to their presentations. Salka expressed his support for the event, and Miller and Smullen submitted statements, which are listed below along with other statements government and BOCES officials provided to send their support of Farming Your Future:
State Assemblyman Brian Miller:
“I am proud to represent so many of Upstate New York’s rural communities. One of the challenges facing rural regions is finding ways to provide opportunities for the future of agriculture – which is and always has been one of the leading industries in our state. As times have changed, and the cost of doing business in New York has grown exponentially, there are new challenges that our small, family-owned farms face every day, not least of which is having a trained and enthusiastic workforce.
“Events like Farming Your Future help to create that excitement as well as the hands-on training opportunities students need as they explore farming as a viable career and lifestyle choice. I sincerely believe that while times for the agriculture industry have been hard, there is time to turn things around and forge a path to a bright future for farming in New York state. Every day I fight for that future, and will be bringing a state task force on workforce development to our region later this fall to further explore ways we can offer students successful career options that go beyond expensive and perhaps unnecessary college degrees. I am very pleased to be part of this excellent event and would like to thank Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES, Madison-Oneida BOCES and Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES for everything they do to support our students and provide real job skills, training and experiences.”
State Assemblyman Robert Smullen:
“Farming Your Future is a wonderful opportunity for students to learn about the important role agriculture plays in our state’s economy. It’s also a great way for today’s students to explore potential careers, and to consider a future in farming that will help ensure our vital agricultural industry continues to thrive for generations to come.”
State Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon:
“The Farming Your Future program is an incredible opportunity for Mohawk Valley students to gain hands-on experience and learn about potential careers in our state’s booming agricultural industry. I want to thank Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES and their BOCES partners for sponsoring this yearly event, and I hope every student who participates takes full advantage of this amazing experience.”
U.S. Congressman Anthony Brindisi:
“Our region has a rich agricultural history and farms that have been in families for generations. Each year, Farming Your Future is an incredible event that helps inspire the young people in our area to learn more about careers in agriculture. As a member of the House Committee on Agriculture, I’ve seen firsthand how important agriculture is to our region and how rewarding those careers can be. Thank you to BOCES for putting on this wonderful and educational event.”
State Sen. Joseph Griffo:
“Farming plays a major role in regional stability and economic growth, particularly in the Mohawk Valley. While ensuring farmers get the resources and support that they need to thrive has been a priority of mine, I also understand the importance showing younger generations that they, too, can have a future in farming. I commend our area BOCES and all those involved with organizing today’s event. This is a tremendous opportunity for students to connect with local industry professionals, get first-hand experience about farming and explore an exciting and meaningful career in agriculture.”
State Sen. James Seward:
“Farming has served as the backbone of New York’s economy for generations, and here in the Mohawk Valley it is a way of life. I have championed a number of state programs to grow our agriculture economy, including several to assist our next generation of farmers. I am particularly encouraged by the growth of FFA programs and ag-related education courses offered by our area schools – today’s event is a terrific complement. I applaud our area BOCES programs for putting together this showcase and the ongoing education they provide.”
Herkimer County Administrator James Wallace:
“Farming Your Future is a fantastic way to expose students to agriculture, our No. 1 industry in Herkimer County. This allows many kids in the region to find out more about agriculture jobs they might not learn about otherwise. I think it’s a great event.”
Madison-Oneida BOCES Career and Technical Education Outreach Coordinator Rachel Helmer:
“The most exciting aspect of the annual Farming Your Future event is the opportunity it provides students to discover the wide array of careers that exist in the field of agriculture. By attending FYF, students are able to easily understand that agricultural careers are truly 21st century careers that have expanded beyond traditional pathways to include radar and drone operation, data analysis, graphic design, marketing, chemistry and more. Anything we can do to help our students realize what a diverse range of job opportunities there are within their own communities is a win for everyone.”
Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES District Superintendent Dr. Patricia Kilburn, Ed.D.:
“Agriculture, agribusiness and agritourism are growing industries in our local and state economy, and this event has been an excellent way for us to introduce students to new career opportunities and technology being used in a more traditional trade. By collaborating with our other local BOCES to offer this unique experience for students, we are hoping to inspire the next generation of agriculture professionals in our region.”
Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES District Superintendent Sandra Sherwood:
“We are so happy to coordinate Farming Your Future in partnership with our local BOCES to expose students across the region to an array of agriculture careers. Agriculture permeates into many of the programs we offer students at Herkimer BOCES, just as it does into an ever-expanding range of career fields from technology to tourism. By helping students learn more about one of the largest industries in our area and taking their aspirations from the classroom to the crop fields and beyond, Farming Your Future truly creates opportunities for growth.”
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