During my freshman year of college, I stayed local to help
my family with the livestock and farming business and later
transferred to Texas Tech University to continue pursuing
Ultimately, agricultural education impacted every career
move I made, allowing me to work for some of the world’s
largest food companies, including McDonald’s and Tyson
Foods. Today, I lead sustainability policy for Tyson Foods,
working with a team to develop targets that will help shape
the future of food and define the food industry as a whole.
I’ve been fortunate to lead and support impactful and
talented teams throughout my career because of the skills
I began to develop in my first ag ed class. Critical thinking,
teamwork, and devoting energy to the issues of cause and
effect are more important now than ever, and helping young
people develop those skills early is tremendously rewarding.
Back to those Tomatoes
Knowing every species of tomatoes may not be high
priority for most people, but learning how, where, and why
the tomato was grown, and who grew it, shows students that
everything comes from somewhere.
Here’s an example: Let’s say Pete, a junior, believes
organic tomatoes are safer to eat because his best friend eats
organic. There is nothing wrong with wanting to buy and eat
organic food, but Pete doesn’t completely understand why
he eats organic; he just believes it’s safer because his friend
read something scary about pesticides. In his agricultural
science class, Pete will learn about federal requirements
for food safety and how both the organic and conventional
tomatoes have each been stringently tested to ensure they
are safe to eat.
If Pete still wants to eat organic tomatoes, that’s fine;
because he is educated, he is now making an active choice,
not passively reacting to marketing. Pete might buy organic
because of an ingredient’s specific attributes, such as taste or
texture, but now he is making a confident choice based on
values he has developed independently and thoughtfully.
Marketing can make one item seem like a panacea and
another nearly identical item seem dangerous, but most consumers are not objectively educated about where foods come
from and how they end up on store shelves or a restaurant
plate. Every consumer is interested in quality and value, but
most don’t have the tools or knowledge to accurately judge
the best option for his or her needs and wants.
America produces some of the highest-quality, safest, and
most affordable food in the world. The more students understand the parameters that define quality and safety, the more
they can appreciate the food they choose and the ways they
arrive at those choices.
In agricultural science programs, students learn how to
tell truth from fiction and separate catchy taglines from reality.
They learn to think based on facts and how to analyze data to
make their own decisions.
In agricultural science education, students learn to test information and theories with a five-step process. They are encouraged to develop a mindset that questions, measures, tests,
and questions again.