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Consider a career in ag

Events in East and Middle Tennessee offer students opportunity to learn about jobs in agriculture from industry professionals
Story by: Sarah Geyer 3/25/2020


More than 400 middle and high school students participated in the third annual Ag Day with UT Men’s Basketball on Tuesday, Feb. 18. In addition to learning about careers in agriculture from industry professionals, attendees were treated to a “behind-the-scenes” tour of Neyland Stadium, which included a meet and greet with Smokey.
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Only two months into 2020, more than 700 East and Middle Tennessee students have participated in youth ag career programs featuring industry professionals and sporting events.

Sponsored by Tennessee Farmers Cooperative, Farm Bureau Insurance of Tennessee, and the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, both events gave students, many who are involved in FFA or 4-H, the chance to hear firsthand about career opportunities in the field of agriculture from a panel of local industry professionals. The students were also given the opportunity to attend either a men’s basketball game at the University of Tennessee or a Nashville Predators game at Bridgestone Arena.

The third annual Ag Day with UT Men’s Basketball was held on Tuesday, Feb. 18, on the university’s Knoxville campus. Approximately 450 middle and high school students, teachers, and parents braved the relentless rain to attend. The event began with “behind-the-scenes” tours of Neyland Stadium led by current UT ag students. Following the tours, attendees gathered at the Student Union to learn more about career opportunities in agriculture.

Dr. Tim Cross, chancellor of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, opened the panel discussion session with a welcome and an outline of the areas of study available at the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

“We’re glad to have you on campus,” he said. “We hope you will consider pursuing one of our ag majors, but we believe that, no matter what your major, the University of Tennessee is a good choice.”

Lee Maddox, director of communications for TFBF, served as session moderator for the discussion, which featured a panel of local ag professionals including Kristen Walker, field service director for TFBF; Jennifer Houston, past president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association; Dr. John Sorochan, distinguished professor of turfgrass science at UT; Jimmy Ogilvie, TFC’s event and sales support manager; and Shane Williams, senior financial officer at Farm Credit Mid-America.

When asked about the skills most needed for a career in ag, the speakers were unanimous: communication skills, both written and oral. They also urged students to seek opportunities for internships and job shadowing while in high school and college. One of the panelists asked how many of the attendees planned to pursue a career in agriculture, and nearly two-thirds of them raised their hands. After Dr. Sorochan shared that his graduates had a 100-percent job placement rate, many students expressed a newfound interest in turf science.

Following the presentation, attendees were treated to pizza before heading to Thompson-Boling Arena to watch a nail-biter with the Vols pulling out a 65-61 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Ag Day with the Predators was held Monday, Jan. 27, with nearly 300 middle and high school students, teachers, and parents from Middle Tennessee in attendance.

Panelists included Lee Maddox, who served a dual role as emcee and participant; Devin Gilliam, financial service officer at Farm Credit Mid-America; Kim Holmberg, chief operating officer for Journal Communications; Stephanie McQueen, marketing director for H&R Agri-Power; and Scott Bohanon, training and education specialist for TFC.

As a first-time panelist, Bohanon says he was impressed by the thoughtfulness of the students’ questions and appreciated the opportunity to share his personal story.

“When I was in high school, I wanted to be a graphic designer,” said Bohannon, who holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Tennessee Technology University and Oklahoma State University respectively. “I didn’t think my career path was in agriculture. But now, as part of Co-op, I work with accountants, lawyers, human resources officers, and even graphic artists, each who play an important role in the agriculture industry.”

The speakers stressed the importance of becoming involved in college organizations – especially those pertaining to agriculture – and pointed out that sororities or fraternities can provide opportunities to strengthen communication, organizational, and leadership skills.

To cap off a busy day, attendees were treated to a tour of Bridgestone Stadium and a pre-game meal before enjoying the professional hockey game atmosphere. Unfortunately, the Preds were defeated by the Toronto Maple Leafs with a final score of 2-5.

“We need to encourage our students to consider a career in agriculture, and

Co-op is proud to partner with Farm Bureau to provide these types of opportunities,” says Jimmy Ogilvie. “The popularity of the events at UT led to the Ag Day with the Predators for Middle Tennessee students, and, with its success, the hope is to offer something similar in West


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