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Published December 02, 2013, 09:37 AM

FFA members optimistic about farming

The opportunity for success is strong.

By: Don Davis, Forum News Service

MINNEAPOLIS — Brooke Wente sees farmers and doctors as similar: Both keep people alive.

“We cannot survive without farming,” says the Morris, Minn., native and Minnesota FFA secretary.

Given that, she adds, she is very optimistic about farming’s future.

“Yes, agriculture is a risky business ... but the opportunity for success is very strong on the benefit side,” Wente says.

Even with success stories out there, young farmers are struggling.

A 2011 National Young Farmers’ Coalition survey found money is a major hurdle for young Americans entering agriculture.

Specifically, the survey found that getting money, mostly in loans, is hard for young farmers. They also have problems finding affordable land and health insurance.

The FFA, formerly known as the Future Farmers of America, makes an effort to show how important agriculture is, but more of its members are taking jobs off the farm.

Minnesota FFA vice president Stuart Schumacher of Heron Lake, for instance, is studying at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities with an eye toward being a food corporation manager. Wente is taking agriculture education courses, but says she has many opportunities in agribusiness beyond the farm.

Even if they may not become full-time farmers, Schumacher and Wente say they know the importance of the profession.

“There are a lot of technology and different programs to help prevent against risk,” says Wente, who attends the University of Minnesota. “Farmers are some of the most knowledgeable people I know. They are staying up to date with new information.”

Schumacher, from Minnesota’s southwest, says he understands that the risks of weather and natural disasters can be a deterrent to getting into the business. One of agriculture’s major problems is that many people, even in an ag state such as Minnesota, have little connection with the farm.

FFA members are working to bridge the disconnect.

“The blue jacket is the perfect starting point for a conversation,” says Wente, wearing her distinctive blue FFA jacket.

School FFA chapters, such as in Morris, are taking the farmers’ story to Twin Cities’ schools.

Farm students show city youths how the system works, such as how crops are planted and how milk gets to the stores.

“We take it a step further and bring in livestock,” Wente says.

Cattle producers even visit the Twin Cities to grill hamburgers at schools.

“We understand there is a disconnect of people not knowing where their food is coming from,” Wente says.

Schumacher says he fields a lot of ag questions during his time in the Twin Cities.

“I end up spending a lot of time advocating why I am going into agriculture,” he says.

Wente says there is more to agriculture than tilling fields and feeding livestock. “It is growing and there is a lot that needs to happen in order to feed the growing population.”