About 150 Grade 10 students from as far away as Elkhorn and MacGregor and as near as Sioux Valley got a glimpse of the cattle industry from multiple angles on the sidelines of the Wheat City Stampede last week.
Passing through 12 interactive stations manned by volunteers, the teenagers listened to presentations on beef cattle production and management, careers in agriculture, pasture management and more.
To lighten things up, some took a stab at throwing a lariat loop at a dummy roping calf, while others stretched out a 20-foot scroll that showed just how obscenely long leafy spurge roots can grow.
“We’re trying to open their eyes to the fact that agriculture is a very diverse industry,” said Johanne Ross, executive director of Agriculture in the Classroom – Manitoba.
Her main goal was to show the students that there was an abundance of career choices aside from the obvious – farming or food processing.
Catching their attention now, just when they are beginning to chart the course of their academic future, is important for supplying the industry with needed recruits to keep up with economic growth as well as compensating for attrition rates as aging baby boomers retire.
Those might include a high-level plant-breeding specialist making upwards of $80,000 per year, to a truck driver with a high school diploma.
“They can step into a great career in agriculture, and there are all sorts of different, dynamic opportunities for them, whether it be with post-secondary education but also with a high school education,” she said. “It’s really endless. Agriculture is more than just farming.”
Karen Hill, project co-ordinator with AITC, said that the Amazing Rangeland Adventure was intended to link beef industry issues with the students’ geography curriculum, which includes a unit called “Food from the Land.”
“We are attempting to give them an inside perspective on all the different facets of the agriculture industry, with a particular emphasis on cattle production,” said Hill.
She added that while job opportunities in other sectors may be suffering from the faltering economy, agriculture has so far been spared the worst effects.
“If you talk to the ag faculty students, they will tell you that there are jobs for the picking,” said Hill. [email protected]