By Mary Rezac - Nebraska News Service / Melissa Keyes was giving a presentation about agriculture when a boy from Lincoln asked her, “What’s a farm?”
“Nebraska’s a huge agriculture state; these kids might live right next to a farm and not know what that is.”
Keyes’ passion for “telling the story of agriculture” and correcting misinformation was what drove her to become an Agricultural Ambassador last year.
A special outreach of the National FFA Foundation, the Agricultural Ambassador program trains 20 students annually to give presentations on various agricultural topics. Students are selected from across the nation to receive a $1,000 scholarship for the year and give up to 30 presentations to an array of audiences.
Jenna Genson, the adviser for the ambassadors through the National FFA Foundation, said the idea for the program started about 10 years ago with the goal of simply informing the average person about agricultural practices.
“It was really spearheaded by two of our major sponsors who saw a need for more young people talking about [the agriculture industry],” Genson said. “These sponsors recognized how valuable it is to have non-employees sharing the message so it didn’t seem like a company initiative or a sales pitch, per se.”
The ambassadors give presentations to any group of any age, in both urban and rural settings. Mollie Wilken, a UNL senior who also served as an ambassador last year, said she learned to tweak her message based on her audience.
“If I was in rural areas, I mostly talked about being an advocate, because those people are usually more familiar with what’s going on in the industry,” Wilken said. “But in urban areas I talked more about production practices and why they’re done the way that they are.”
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