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Planting the Next Crop of Farmers
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The official end of summer in Kansas is really the start of school. Most public schools are now in session and Barton Community College started this past Wednesday. The next “crop” of students has started on the formal journey of becoming professionals in agriculture while some are in their sophomore year. It might be a bit of a stretch but let’s compare education and agriculture.
A successful producer considers many factors when deciding what to plant. Across the United States one of the most important decisions is what type of plant or plants provide the greatest opportunity for success. In very broad terms, they have three choices:
• Annual crops – These crops complete their life cycle in one year. They are planted germinate, grow, flower, mature and die. Producers are hopefully able to harvest what they grew the crop for and start over again next year. Corn, soybeans, and wheat are vital to the success of modern agriculture but producers are always starting from scratch again.
• Biennial crops – These plants have a two-year life cycle. The first year consists of vegetative growth and plants spend their energy storing food in roots. Then after a period of dormancy, usually over winter, they grow the second year, reproduce seed and die. These are crops like carrots, members of the onion family, sugar beets, parsley, celery, and many flowering plants. We may harvest the root or in some cases the fruit but again producers have one harvest and are constantly planting again.
• Perennial crops – Producers plant these crops and if they are well maintained and the weather cooperates you are able to reap the harvest for many years without replanting. The keys to the production of perennial plants are preparing the proper foundation prior to planting, selecting the right variety/hybrid, and constantly feeding and nurturing of the crop. If you select the right cultivar but don’t prepare properly you will have to start over. If you prepare properly but select a low quality cultivar or one not adapted to the area – you harvest a poor or nonexistent crop and have to start over. However, if you are diligent, prepare the proper foundation and keep nurturing the crop, it continues to grow and produce a crop. Here our perennials include many prairie grasses and alfalfa. Ask an alfalfa producer and they will tell you the importance of preparing the land properly and spending the time and money on selecting the right variety.
Preparing for a career in any aspect of agriculture is like these types of crop plants. You can be the annual or perennial crop and while your education is of value you are limited in what you can accomplish. However, if your education is on a track like the perennial crop you take time to prepare a solid foundation, select the right path, and constantly nourish and feed your knowledge you are able to reap the harvest and be successful for a lifetime. Producers in agriculture that view their learning like an annual or biennial crop may experience an excellent harvest of two but in the long-term will cease to exist. Those who prepare a solid foundation that prepares them for lifelong learning will reap the benefits for a lifetime.