Matt Latham talks about agriculture services with high school students.
(Clinton KY – February 5, 2014) – The Hickman County High School Chamber of Commerce Leadership Class spent an afternoon learning about their county's largest industry - agriculture. Speakers involved in the business of brought their 21st century outlook to an age old industry.
Growing food is as old as civilization. It can be argued that cultivation of crops was the impetus to the development of civilization. Growing crops rather than gathering wild plants made it possible for other industries to develop. With the development of the specialized skill of farming, humans became the only species able to produce enough food for themselves and for those not involved in the process.
Twenty six sophomores and juniors heard presentations from professionals not much older than they. Several speakers graduated from the same high school they are attending. All made the point that their agriculture is not grandpa’s agriculture – or even dad’s. One speaker told the students that his grandfather is still involved in the family farm, but he calls his grandson advice. “He just doesn’t understand the tech.”
J. T. Workman, a specialist in crop nutrient management showed slides of the formulas he uses to figure the best mixtures to facilitate plant growth. He told students that there are jobs in agriculture for men and women. He said that he deals with women in agriculture “every day.”
According to Workman, drones for agriculture are not science fiction. He projected drones being used in Hickman County in the near future. Holding up development are FAA rules on drones. While drones can be used by the farmer under 400 feet in the air, drones for hire are not legal. Workman said the fines are hefty for a businessperson to use a drone over someone else’s property.
Drones are cheaper than airplanes for crop dusting. Japanese farmers are using drones for 60% of the jobs once reserved for airplanes. Drones can also be used for damage assessments. They are also incredibly accurate for mapping. Resolution for drone surveys can be as small as ½ centimeter.
Students were treated to a field trip to the local office of Crop Production Services, Inc. Matt Latham and Craig Glasco represent a company with over 1000 field offices. Crop Production Services sells seed and nutrients for agriculture. Latham told students that there are seven companies in the immediate area that do what they do.
Whether they get the farmer’s business comes down to service, according to Latham.
Both men echoed Workman’s point that there are jobs available in agriculture. They urged students to get degrees. Latham said when he started, the degree was not the final decider on who got hired. Now it is. When it comes down to it, the one with a degree gets the ag job.
Both praised the high school’s Falcon Academy, a three year old program that allows students to earn college credit in high school at no cost to student or parent.
New Agriculture agent Mattea Locke, who graduated from Hickman County High, came out of high school with seventeen hours. Those hours and going to school continuously allowed her to graduate in three years with an agriculture degree. She’s back in her home county working for UK Extension Services. Locke was in the first high school leadership class and the first class enrolled in Falcon Academy.
Students graduating this year can take forty hours of college credit when they leave Hickman County High School.
“That’s $10,000 you and your parents don’t have to spend.” Matt Latham told the students.
Students finished up their tour at the federal Farm Service Agency. They were regaled with an alphabet soup list of programs available for local farmers. They also learned what federal support means for area farmers. The office, servicing Fulton and Hickman Counties, gave out five million dollars ($5,000,000) last year – three million in Hickman County and two million on Fulton County.
Farmers now can access satellite data telling them all of the different soils and microclimates of their fields. Tractors are high tech centers. Farm offices depend on internet access for everything from market conditions to seed mixes.
It is still agriculture. Just not one great grandpa would recognize.