Day focused on agriculture-related careers gives more than 100 McLean Co. High students insights into different work opportunities after high school and/or college

McLean County News, Calhoun, Sept. 8, 2016

MCHS students learn about ag careers
By STEPHANIE SALMONS

It was bright and warm late Friday morning as approximately 120 McLean County High School students gathered in groups around Fairview Farms for Ag Day.

Hosted by Independence Bank, Ag Day serves as a chance to expose the youth in the county to different careers in agriculture, maybe broaden their minds," said Tawna Wright, president of McLean County for Independence Bank.

"Most often people think farming is just the row crop operation," she said. But the event is a chance "to show them the different facets of agriculture, the opportunities in our county here for them (and) what they need to do to reach those careers."

According to Wright, there were 10 stations set up for students displaying a plethora of topics from agronomy, agricultural insurance, finance, production and more.

Independence Bank agricultural loan officer Chad Hall said many people have the perception they have to own a farm, but the idea of Ag Day was to show students they can still have a viable career and remain in McLean County without having to have land ownership.

Wright said any MCHS student enrolled in agriculture as well as the entire sophomore class were invited on the field trip.

"We target that sophomore class because we feel like if someone is still trying to decide on a career or focus, that still gives them time to get involved their junior or senior years at the high school level in the ag programs, see what they like and, then hopefully, take that on into college and maybe try to help focus them and give them some ideas of what they might like to do."

Wright said the education of local children and giving back to the community are important for Independence Bank.

"We are a rural community," she said. "Ag is the lifeblood of McLean County, so we want to make sure and help to support that and try to help our young people because they're our next generation of producers and they're our next generation of making sure our community and our county stays viable and productive."

Agriculture teacher and FFA adviser Ross Woodburn said it was important for the students to see the different careers available.

"Only 2 percent of the world farms, but there's close to 20 percent that's in the ag industry alone, so there are a lot of careers out there that the students don't see," he said. "When you think of agriculture or FFA, the first thing they go to is farming - and that is the backbone - but there are so many more careers in the ag industry than just farming to keep everything going, from your salesmen to your crop consultants to lenders ... I can tell them about it in class but seeing it first-hand makes that connection. You can say it all you want ... but actually showing them, that's huge."

Fairview Farms near Calhoun is owned by Jonathan and Tracy Ayer and is a family-run operation.

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