I do not own a pair of boots.  Nor do I rise with the sun and work well into the evening when the work is finished.  However, I do feel a connection to agriculture. 

Some might find this hard to believe since I was born and raised in a suburb outside of Chicago, but I have always had an interest in the environment.  Growing up in the suburbs, my education never included classes about agriculture.  Although we did have our basic science classes and the ability to take a cooking class in high school, the focus was never on where this food actually came from.  So, during my senior year of high school, I decided that I would tailor my education to what I was actually interested in, the environment. 

When I was accepted to the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, I enrolled under environmental economics and policy.  Beginning here, my friends and family couldn’t really see the importance of this topic.  Halfway through my sophomore year, I began to notice a pattern in my classes.  Professors would jokingly note how the classes seemed to be divided into two groups: kids from Chicago suburbs and everyone else.  This oversimplification began to intrigue me and helped me realize that I was not on the correct career path.  With my suburban background, my interest in both agriculture and the environment could help bridge a gap between these two “groups”. 

I decided to switch my major to Agricultural Communications.  Now, once my friends and family heard the term “agriculture” in my major, they became even more confused.  To them, agriculture is an entirely different world; one they feel absolutely no connection with.  I had a similar view for some time but the more I learned about the environment, the more I realized how agriculture plays such a large role. 

Agriculture to me does not just mean planting crops and raising cattle.  It does not just mean driving tractors and plowing fields.  I see agriculture as part of a larger process.  Without the environment there is no agriculture and vice versa.  For those who might be skeptical, farmers definitely understand the importance of weather on their crops. 

I would like eliminate these two “groups” and generate a better understanding for everyone involved.  I want people like my family and friends to be curious about where their food comes from and what processes are involved.  Just as well, I want those from rural backgrounds to understand the lifestyle suburbanites such as me grow up in. 

Agriculture is everything. 

Ashley LaVela
University of Illinois Ag Communications student


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