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Changing the world by changing the way we feed and clothe it

NRCS, Wrangler, FFA team up to cultivate next generation of soil health farmers
By Ron Nichols, NRCS public affairs officer

During the “Next Generation Land Stewardship Workshop” earlier this month, high school and college students throughout North Carolina learned some of the basics and benefits of soil health.

During the “Next Generation Land Stewardship Workshop” earlier this month, high school and college students throughout North Carolina learned some of the basics and benefits of soil health.

Assisted by student participants, NRCS soil health specialist David Lamm uses the slake test and infiltration test to demonstrate some of the benefits of healthy soil.

Assisted by student participants, NRCS soil health specialist David Lamm uses the slake test and infiltration test to demonstrate some of the benefits of healthy soil.

Approximately 50 high school and college students and their instructors attended the day-long “Next Generation Land Stewardship Workshop” at Wrangler's World Headquarters in Greensboro, NC.

Approximately 50 high school and college students and their instructors attended the day-long “Next Generation Land Stewardship Workshop” at Wrangler’s World Headquarters in Greensboro, NC.

April 18, 2017 - Chariti Brewer’s inspiration to teach America’s future farmers is rooted in the words she found in a college catalog some 20 years ago: “If you want to change the world,” read one of the course descriptions, “change the way you feed it.”

So even though it meant rolling out of bed at 5:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, Brewer wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to refresh her love of the soil – to learn more about how healthy soil can change the world and the way we feed and clothe it.

On what normally would have been a day to catch some extra sleep, Brewer and one of her Future Farmers of America (FFA) students from Cary High School in Cary, North Carolina, hopped in her car and drove some 80 miles to Wrangler’s World Headquarters in Greensboro.

Organized in partnership with the North Carolina Chapter of the National FFA Organization, USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Wrangler, the “Next Generation Land Stewardship Workshop” was designed to demonstrate the on- and off-farm benefits of emerging soil-health practices in agriculture and to help inspire and inform the next generation of soil health farmers, researchers and agricultural professionals.

Roian Atwood, director of sustainability for Wrangler, said land stewardship is a principle pillar of his company’s sustainability program. “As a major purchaser of cotton and a trusted brand in farming communities, that means supporting sustainable agriculture practices, most of which – quite literally – are rooted in soil health,” he said.

During the day-long event, students helped conduct soil health demonstrations and listened to presentations from soil health experts, researchers and a North Carolina farmer who uses soil health management systems in his diversified operation.

NRCS’ David Lamm, who was among the workshop’s cadre of instructors, said teaching the basics and benefits of soil health to the next generation of agricultural professionals is the key to meeting many of the planet’s current and future food production and environmental challenges. “The next generation of farmers can make soil health practices mainstream, so we’re excited to get them involved now,” he said.

Lisa Loflin, who teaches natural resources in nearby Davidson County, brought five of her students to the event. Convincing them to spend a Saturday learning about soil health was surprisingly easy, she said. “In, fact, I had five other students who would have also attended had their schedules allowed.”

Loflin said workshops like these allow students to see how classroom lessons apply to the real world. “There is so much to be discovered about soil health and I hope to encourage more of my students to consider pursuing this field as a career option.”

Layne Baker, who has been an FFA member for seven years, was among the 50 high school and college students and instructors who attended the workshop. The North Carolina State University freshman said the day-long commitment and early wake-up call proved invaluable, solidifying his career choice.

“The soil health conference helped me realize just how interested I am in sustainability,” he said. “I know now that I want to definitely pursue a career that is more focused on ensuring our planet is taken care of for years to come.”