Dear Targeting Excellence sponsors, board of directors, and state committees,
Thank you for your support of the Targeting Excellence Program. I am currently studying Agricultural Sciences and Extension Education at Penn State University. I am excited to pursue a career in the field of education or outreach where I can connect farmers to their communities. Scholarships, like this one, help me reach my academic and professional goals. Thank you for seeing this as an opportunity to invest in my education, the Targeting Excellence Program, and the future of agriculture.With thanks,
2018 Targeting Excellence Scholarship Recipient
I grew up around my grandparents 500-acre dairy farm, Buttonwood Farms. It was there that I helped my great-aunt Shirley bottle feed newborn calves, swept the barn aisle clear of straw and chased cats from one end of the barn to the other. When I was eight-years old, I exhibited my first calf, Sadie, at the South Mountain Fair and later joined the York County 4-H Dairy Clubs. My parents currently own a 10-acre heifer operation in Spring Grove, Bentz-Hollow Farm. This is where we raise my 4-H projects, mostly Holstein heifers.
It was through programs like the York County Dairy Promotion Court that I have found my true passion in educating the public about the importance of agriculture. A life changing event occurred for me at the York Fair during an inner-city school’s field trip. They had scheduled time to meet with me for an hour during their trip. The first question I posed to the group was, “Can anyone share with the group a dairy product they ate today?” Blank stares and a lot of “ummmmm’s” filled the room, and then one boy answered, “We had oranges in our lunches”. It was not until this moment that I realized how privileged I has to live in a rural area and truly understand that not everyone is exposed to our natural environment each day. After we defined dairy products, read a story and had an extensive question and answer session, we had fifteen minutes remaining before they had to leave to go back to school. So together as a group, we walked across the fair to the dairy barns where I showed the children the cows in the birthing center. In that moment, was when it all clicked and the children saw how the dairy industry comes full circle and impacts them directly. That “a-ha” moment that I have seen so many children and adults experience is satisfying for me as a dairy farmer and has inspired me to continue along this path of education as a career. The role of agriculture in local communities, in regional economies and national policies is very complex. It is important for the public to not only understand “where does our food come from”, but also the regulatory aspects, conservation of land, politics, genetics, chemical engineering, mechanics, marketing, communications and more. My post-secondary education goal is to inspire a deeper learning among youth and the public.
I currently a student of the Honors College at Penn State University, majoring in Agricultural Sciences and Extension Education and minoring in Environmental Resource Management. It is my goal to become an agricultural sciences teacher in public school, and to work closely with the Future Farmers of America and 4-H programs. Through this career path and related programs, I plan to give back to the agriculture industry. With roots in the industry and a strong motivation to stay within the industry, I am excited to make positive contributions in our communities. Agriculture was my past, is my present and will be my future.
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Targeting Excellence PO Box 759 RoseHill, NC 28458
For questions please call: Rachel Virden 678-448-2368