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USDA Program Helps High School Students Realize Ag Jobs are Everywhere

Posted by Lorenzo A. Tribbett, Agricultural Marketing Service Fruit and Vegetable Program Specialty Crops Inspection Division Director in USDA Results Conservation
Feb 21, 2017
Summer student interns Joe Dionne and Elliot Alexander; Specialty Crops Inspection Division Assistant Central Region Branch Chief Phil Bricker; AMS Fruit and Vegetable Program Associate Deputy Administrator Chris Purdy
This summer, several employees joined our staff as interns in our New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia locations. The program allows students to gain practical work experience while the agency helps develop future leaders. (Pictured left to right): Summer student interns Joe Dionne and Elliot Alexander; Specialty Crops Inspection Division Assistant Central Region Branch Chief Phil Bricker; AMS Fruit and Vegetable Program Associate Deputy Administrator Chris Purdy. (AMS photo)

Here at the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), one of the many benefits of creating marketing opportunities for ag businesses is seeing first-hand how the industry supports 1 in 12 jobs all over the country. In addition to feeding the world, the ag industry continues to be the strong backbone in our nation’s economy – in both rural and urban areas. To help continue this trend, we set out to groom the next generation of ag leaders. Our Fruit and Vegetable Program developed a strong relationship with high schools in a couple of the country’s largest cities, allowing students to work with the agency while still enrolled in high school.

We started in New York City, home of the Hunt’s Point Terminal Market – the nation’s largest wholesale produce market – so that students at John Bowne High School could get their feet wet in the agriculture industry. We did this by offering the students the opportunity to come on board as interns for our Specialty Crops Inspection Division (SCI). Employees in this division inspect produce entering and leaving Hunt’s Point, which employs more than 10,000 people and generates $2 billion in sales annually. Thanks to a budding relationship with this school featuring a strong ag curriculum, students can now get practical work experience while in school.

Connecting with the next generation of ag leaders is a win-win for all. The students are deeply immersed in all things produce through an apprenticeship like system where they are trained by senior employees. In addition to learning about how to identify quality produce and look for defects, the students are offered personal development opportunities to help them advance their careers. As a result, AMS can help mold future leaders that will help the agency remain a top entity in the industry for many years down the road.

The program started in New York, but it was expanded to include the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences in Chicago, Ill., and the W.B. Saul High School in Philadelphia, Pa. The students worked in our offices at the Chicago International Produce Market and the Philadelphia Wholesale Market, respectively.

AMS is proud to help our students find promising careers in the ag industry. This summer, several students joined our staff as interns in all three locations. We even had one student return while on vacation from their first year in college.

All of these efforts are part of our commitment to show young students there are viable job opportunities in the ag industry right in their own back yard. We encourage you to listen to our radio interview to learn about the program with local high schools. You can also check out a blog story that highlights some of our recent success bringing on young students to the agency. We encourage all high school and college students interested in an agricultural career to visit the Pathways Program website to find internships and recent graduate jobs.

Category/Topic: USDA Results Conservation

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Jul 02, 2015

Thank you for doing this important work!

Jul 20, 2015

An interesting post. I hadn't really thought about the viability of ag jobs in a city or town so this gives me something to think about. I assumed that to work in the industry you had to live in a rural place but that is not the case. Thanks for illuminating several options for careers.