Parents used to tell their sons and daughters that they had to get a college degree and work for someone else a couple years before coming back to the family farm or ranch.
Jolene Brown, a West Branch, Iowa, farmer and farm business consultant, says parents should add another requirement – their kids ought to get some international experience, too.
For dairy, young adults should spend time in New Zealand. For crops, they ought to work in Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Brown says.
New NDSU program
North Dakota State University has developed a new program to help students gain international experience. It's called the Global Food Systems Study Abroad Program.
"It will help develop world-class graduates ready to take on the global challenges affecting our future," says Carl Dahlen, an assistant professor in the Animal Sciences Department.
The first program is a 15-day trip to China in late May and early June this year..
"Our destination will change annually, giving each group of students a unique insight into regional factors that affect agriculture in different parts of the world," says Animal Sciences Department assistant professor David Newman.
The faculty-led program focuses specifically on agriculture and food systems but is open to all NDSU students.
"China was chosen as our first destination because of the major influence the country has on the global economy, which can be traced to our local producers and commodity markets," Dahlen says. "Furthermore, this destination was chosen to expose students to the sheer complexity and size of China's agricultural business environment. Although roughly the same size as the U.S. in terms of land mass, China has four times as many people."
The students will follow the commercial production of animals from birth to growing, feeding and sale facilities. The students also will visit commodity markets and study the intricacies of marketing options producers have for their goods, as well as visit meat processing facilities and study processing methods and the movement of meat from processing facilities to domestic retail or export markets.
In addition, the students will visit the Chinese Agricultural University so they can learn how the university and political system in China interact with and influence its domestic agriculture sector. They'll also visit U.S. corporate and trade offices in China to learn about the global impact of Chinese markets, including imports and exports and the traceability of goods and services back to North Dakota and the surrounding region.
The program also includes stops at historical landmarks in Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai and Hangzhou, including the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Warriors.
"The logistics of agricultural production, product movement and feeding a population of 1.3 billion is unfathomable in the minds of many people," Newman says. "We feel that the opportunity to explore this diverse, dynamic environment would heighten student awareness of the global economy, open minds to alternative ways of thinking and break down barriers unnecessarily imposed by the mainstream U.S. production systems. In other words, this type of program will help our students understand the need for change and that they will be responsible for maintaining our competitive position as a global leader in supplying a safe, abundant food supply."
NDSU Communications contributed information for this article.