Skip to content
main content starts here

It’s time to grow a new generation of agriculturalists

September 23, 2015 | Filed in Archive
Agriculture Education Summit unites education, agribusiness and economic development leaders in common initiative

Summit logoSEPT 23, 2015 – Leaders from education, agriculture and economic development will come together 6 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 29 at HFM BOCES to discuss opportunities in agribusiness locally and the need to improve and expand agricultural education across upstate New York.

The Agricultural Education Summit, a collaborative event with Oneida-Herkimer-Madison (OM) BOCES, Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego (Herkimer) BOCES, Madison-Oneida (MO) BOCES, Otsego-Northern Catskills (ONC) BOCES and HFM BOCES will be simultaneously hosted at HFM BOCES and OM BOCES in New Hartford, NY.

Presentations, displays and simulcast speakers will offer a vision for the future based on a rebirth in agricultural education programs now. Steve Ammerman, Manager of Public Affairs and Associate Director of Public Policy for the New York Farm Bureau, will be master of ceremony.

“A look at local history confirms what most people living in the Mohawk Valley and adjacent areas know; this is historic farmland. For generations back to the settling of the valley, agricultural has been a primary industry here,” HFM BOCES District Superintendent Dr. Patrick Michel said.  “Sure, cities grew up along the Erie Canal and strong manufacturing hubs blossomed in Amsterdam, Canajoharie, Little Falls and Utica, but near at hand, always, was the local farmer with fields of crops and pastures of livestock.

“Today, despite rapid growth in information and nanotechnology industries our vicinity, agriculture continues as a successful business. The legacy of family farms is strong throughout Hamilton, Fulton, Montgomery counties, not to mention in the Schoharie Valley and west into Otsego, Herkimer and Oneida counties.”

However, the nature of agriculture and agribusiness is changing, influenced by waves of technological innovation. The ways of farming instilled in our grandparents are being modified, automated and digitized for the sake of increased yield with labor and cost efficiencies. Like many industries, adapting to the changes can be the means of survival for the family farm, Dr. Michel said.

Agriculture remains a critical part of the country’s infrastructure, but many local farms are fighting a battle of attrition. Young people are opting off the family farmstead to pursue different careers. Why?

According to Dr. Michel, it may be because area schools are no longer promoting or teaching about opportunities in agriculture. “Could it be that the results of economic circumstances that forced schools to gut important programs are now revealing themselves in the dissipation of the potential workforce for a segment of local business?” Michel asks.

Major agricultural employers are popping up all over the HFM region, such as Fage USA (Greek yogurt), Euphrates Cheese, and even medical marijuana. These modern high-tech facilities, along with high-tech farming innovations such as GPS-guided combines, computerized planting systems and robotic milking booths that exclude human contact, now permeate the farming industry, but are not supported in the present educational structure, Michel said.

Our schools prioritize STEM programs as critical to student success. STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, the building blocks of today’s agribusiness growth. It’s time to create new agricultural education programs aligned with the opportunities in this growing field.

“Agriculture is the original STEM industry,” Michel said. “It was through agricultural experimentation that we developed the scientific method.”

Dr. Michel believes schools are obligated to ensure that every student gets the opportunity to choose a career path and build a good life.

“Our communities look to us to create pathways to good careers that offer opportunities locally. This region’s rich agricultural tradition, a heritage now being directed by technology, is opening career doors for our students’ future if we are bold enough to step through them,” he said.

The Agricultural Education Summit, hosted by the Mohawk-Sacandaga School Board Association of Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES with the Fulton, Montgomery and Schenectady Farm Bureaus, offers a plan to reinvigorate agricultural education in the greater Mohawk Valley region, preparing the ground for a new crop of young people excited to build their future in local agriculture and agribusiness.

The Agriculture Education Summit, a collaboration of agriculture, agribusiness, STEM Education and economic development, begins at 6 p.m. with displays and presentations of today’s farming technology and production. At 7 p.m., a slate of guest speakers discussing the need and opportunities to improve and expand agricultural education in the HFM BOCES region will accompany dinner.

The event at HFM BOCES runs concurrently with a sister summit at Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES in New Hartford, NY. Speakers will be simulcast between the two sites.

Due to high demand, dinner seating is limited to 150. RSVP, required for planning purposes, to Christine Eaton at or 736-4681, ext. 4696 no later than Friday, September 25.

  • Master of Ceremonies: Steve Ammerman, Manager of Public Affairs and Associate Director of Public Policy, New York Farm Bureau
  • Emma Rose Wegner, State FFA Vice President, Schoharie Valley Chapter
  • Kait Isaac, Freshman, SUNY Morrisville, formerly NYS FFA District 5 President, OESJ Central School
  • Martha K. Group, Superintendent, Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Central School District
  • Terry R Hughes, Agricultural Education Recruitment and FFA Career Development Event Specialist, Agricultural Education Outreach