By Stuart Thornton
We have heard the narrative over and over: by the year 2050 the global agricultural community will have to nearly double its output to feed 9 billion people. We will have to climb this mountain in the face of farmland loss and degradation, increasing government regulation and an often unpredictable and unforgiving climate. It will take passionate and energized individuals on farms and ranches, in the science community and in the public sphere to climb this mountain. I wholeheartedly believe the global agricultural community, myself included, is up to the challenge.
I was born in the 21st century and will be graduating high school in just a few weeks. I will be 50 years old in 2050. I want to dedicate my life to being a part of the solution to this challenge while also growing and improving our family farm.
I grew up on a farm in Alabama, in the gently rolling terrain of the Tennessee River Valley. My mom manages the farm where we grow corn, cotton, soybeans and wheat. Although I grew up on the farm, I wasn’t a typical farm kid. Sure, I had toy tractors and went with mom to ride the cotton pickers in the fall, but I wasn’t involved in daily chores. I always liked the farm and thought I might want to come back to it one day, but it wasn’t the passion that drove my childhood.
At age 14, I left home for boarding school in Virginia. Leaving home made me realize I actually liked living in a town of 600 people in Alabama. The summer after my freshman year I worked at our farm’s grain bins during wheat and corn harvest. That job is why I initially fell in love with agriculture. I was energized by the hopeful stress of watching a crop grow, the camaraderie of the agricultural community and the indelible excitement of harvest.
From that point forward, I did everything in my power to learn more about agriculture. I comb through Extension articles, attend meetings with my mom and closely follow agricultural commodity markets. I joined Twitter to learn about agriculture from people all over the world. My passion for agriculture drove my college search process and I am excited to major in agricultural science at Cornell University starting this fall.
I hope that my story of falling in love with agriculture is one of hope for the future. I believe there are other young people all over the world who will be enchanted by agriculture, as I was, if they are just exposed to it. Agriculture will need a wave of eager young people to replace retiring baby boomers. I am an example of a young person willing and ready to answer the call and I hope my story gives a little hope about the next generation.
Stuart Thornton grew up on a farm in Alabama. This fall he will be a freshman at Cornell University where he will major in agricultural science. His Twitter handle is @sthornton29.