JUNE 2018 SEEDWORLD.COM / 11 I’M FROM A corn and soybean farm in the middle of Iowa, and we also raised hogs. In high school, I worked on the farm and then attended Iowa State University, studying agronomy. Insert whatever adjectives you want to describe the farm, swap out the state and its respective land grant institution, and that was the story behind most hires for seed companies and agribusinesses. Just as the number of farms have decreased during the past several decades, so too have the number of “farm kids” from which seed companies can choose as new hires. Agriculture hasn’t always been sexy, and historically, farmers have pushed their kids off the farm, to careers that provide a steady stream of income with less risk and that aren’t as physically grueling. That coupled with urban sprawl and the shrinking land mass from which agriculture relies on make that “traditional ag graduate” a minority, rather than the majority. Don’t fret, the number of students enrolling in agri- cultural programs has been on the rise. For instance, student enrollment in Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has witnessed five consecutive years of record enrollment from the fall of 2012 to the fall of 2016. During this period, undergraduate enrollment in the college increased 19 percent, and since 2005, the college has had a 90 percent increase in undergrad- uate students. With more than 5,300 undergradu- ate and graduate students, this is the third largest undergraduate student body among agricultural colleges in the nation, according to the university. Student enrollment in Wageningen University & Research — the No. 1 ranked ag school by QS World University Rankings — has nearly doubled since 2000, increasing from 4,571 in 2002-03 to 9,840 in 2015-16. While actual undergraduate enrollment at Purdue Agriculture hasn’t changed much since 2011, it’s application numbers have increased from 1,269 to 1,756 in 2016. More and more students are interested in agricul- ture. But what today’s ag students look like might be very different than what you might expect. In New York, for instance, Julie Suarez who serves as the associate dean of government and community relations for Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, says that its largest FFA chapter is in the borough of Queens. “Not what you might expect,” she says. “We hear there’s not much interest in agriculture, but that’s not what we see on the ground. We see incredible entrepreneurship in the student body.” The challenge, she says, is exposing them early to career opportunities and getting young students engaged. As such, Suarez explains that the college has tremendously increased its efforts to support and build interest in 4-H and FFA within the state. New York is a big dairy state, she says, and with that comes workforce challenges. As part of their efforts, they developed a junior dairy leaders program. “This gives a lot of kids who don’t have a dairy or livestock background the chance to get onto our school farm during the summer, and through their work, they are finding that they are much more interested in a career in dairy.” To attract future talent and generate interest in the seed industry, Suarez recommends companies set up steady internship and shadowing programs where students of different ages can engage and learn about the work being done within a company. “If you are going to attract a young, urban kid, you need to be offering them internships,” she says. “Start early and provide meaningful and impactful internships for students. “This can be particularly impactful for small- to medium-sized companies. You have to teach people to want you.” Building Talent According to Michael Gunderson, Purdue University director for the Center for Food and Agricultural Business, human talent is one of the most important investments a company can make. “As the industry continues to grow, the number of college graduates with expertise in food, agricul- ture, natural resources or the environment will not meet the demands of the industry’s talent require- ments,” he says. “That means talent acquisition, employee development, retention and succession planning are imperative to business success.” “If you are going to attract a young, urban kid, you need to be offering them internships ... You have to teach people to want you.” — Julie Suarez DIDYOUKNOW? MORETHAN70PERCENT OFHRSPECIALISTSCITE TALENTANDRECRUITING DIFFICULTIESASTHEIR MOSTCONCERNING HUMANRESOURCE MATTER,ACCORDINGTO AGCAREERS“2017-2018U.S. AGRIBUSINESSHRREVIEW.”