JSHAP Member Forum: What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

Professional athlete? Doctor? Teacher? Or maybe a superhero! When children of elementary school age are polled, these are some of the most common answers to the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” And always near the top of the list is…veterinarian! In fact, “veterinarian” almost always makes the top three careers and is the number one choice of little girls.

Now we all know that most kids will not become veterinarians. However, many of these bright young folks could become the production managers, nutritionists, environmental scientists, and stockpeople that our industry depends upon. That is, they could if they knew that those careers existed.

So children admire veterinarians, and children are not very aware of other careers in agriculture. This provides those of us who are veterinarians and are working in agriculture with an amazing opportunity to reach out and influence the next generation of our industry! Let’s face it…to a little kid, veterinarians are cool. We’re living the dream. They don’t care what grades you got in veterinary school. They don’t care about your salary. They don’t even care that I once preg-checked a steer (he was open). They only care that we are veterinarians and that we are passionate about agriculture.

Members of the AASV are already proficient at reaching out to younger generations. As an AASV member, one of the things that I am most proud of is our passion for reaching out to veterinary students. I consistently hear from students that AASV members are a welcoming group, making them feel like colleagues while they are in school and offering opportunities (not to mention scholarships) to those who are interested in swine medicine.

To promote sustainability in agriculture, we must take advantage of the opportunity that we have to influence young people! Students are offered opportunities to explore careers as early as middle school. Many have their hearts set on a particular career by high school. We need to expand our skill sets and start reaching out to 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. To make students aware of the many opportunities in agriculture, we need to reach them earlier and open their minds to agriculture.

Last spring, at the end of his 5th grade school year, my son Luke wanted to become a professional basketball player. At this writing, midway through 6th grade, Luke wants to go to Purdue and become an agricultural engineer. What changed his mind? He was exposed to a group of talented college students pursuing a variety of careers in agriculture-related fields. They were passionate about agriculture. He was inspired.

If one hundred AASV members each call their local elementary school and offer to speak to a classroom about their career and other careers in agriculture just once a year, we could easily inspire 2500 students annually.

At Novus International (St Charles, Missouri), we have developed tools to help you in this effort. A video available for your use can be found at http://youtu.be/bmQvAqKz9Os. A brochure has been developed to complement the video. Contact me for a PDF or hard copy of this brochure. This summer, these tools will be incorporated into a toolkit with games and interactive activities. If you need some help, use these tools! If 5th graders don’t scare you, just go talk to them. Tell them about yourself and the people you work with every day.

At some point in your life, someone inspired you. Now let’s go inspire kids to open their minds to agriculture!

Source: JSHAP, May/June 2013 By Karen Lehe