“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” That is what my high school advisor told me when she recommended the course “Introduction to Agriculture.” This class allowed me to join The National FFA Organization. Since my high school did not have a competitive public speaking team, FFA was the only way I was going to be able to get involved in public speaking. This opportunity was very important to me since my passion is speaking in front of crowds. At first, I was really nervous to take this class. I didn’t know any of the “ag kids,” I didn’t grow up on a farm, and to be quite honest, I didn’t even know the difference between corn and soybeans. It felt like I was about to operate a space shuttle blindfolded because my agriculture background was non-existent. Little did my fifteen-year-old-self know, my entire future was about to change. My sophomore year of high school, I converted to agriculture.

2-27-17-i-converted-to-ag2Soon after joining this class, I didn’t fear it, I embraced it. I had heard so many myths about Genetically Modified Organisms and other farming practices. I came to realize that I was afraid of agriculture because I knew little to nothing about it. Joining FFA and taking “Introduction to Agriculture” allowed me to gain knowledge and skills. Participating in activities like career development events such as soil judging and dairy judging, helped me learn about the agriculture industry as a whole. Soon, I ran for an office in my FFA chapter and began to get more professional experience networking with farmers and other professionals in the industry. It helped me see a side of agriculture that is not portrayed correctly in the public eye. Often times we see ads falsely portraying the industry as people just trying to make a lot of money and poison our food system. I quickly learned that was not true. Courses on biotechnology and animal science allowed me to better understand the science behind current farming practices. One of the most fascinating parts is to see how the industry has changed and evolved to better the way our food is produced. Agriculture is constantly making advancements in order to be more productive and more efficient, ultimately bettering the world we live in.

2-27-17-i-converted-to-ag1Since high school, agriculture has not only been a part of my life because of what I consume on a daily, but it has become my passion. I am currently a junior at Southern Illinois University Carbondale studying Agricultural Communication. My goal is to communicate to non-ag audiences and bridge the gap between the consumer and producer. From livestock to row crops, agriculture is what I advocate. From scholarship opportunities to job opportunities, the agriculture industry has so much to offer, even if you weren’t born and raised on a farm. What if I hadn’t pushed through what I was afraid of? If I never took the opportunity to become educated about one of the largest industries in the United States, I would not have had the amazing opportunities that agriculture has to offer and learned to appreciate the work that farmers and producers do day in and day out. Because of agriculture, I have found a way to bring my passion for communicating with others to life. The best part is, I get to advocate for an industry that is diverse, evolving, and has so much to offer. My hope is that I can someday give back to the agriculture industry what it has given to me. I will forever be grateful that I converted to agriculture.

Alicia Sunderlage
Southern Illinois University

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