Jennifer Oelfke, Communications and Marketing student at MNSU, Mankato, shares her visions for the future of the agricultural industry, especially for her generation. Along with her foresight, she stresses the importance in upcoming generations to innovate within agriculture. Oelfke has always had close connections to this topic, from being raised on her family’s dairy farm to her involvement in her local 4H chapter. She continued her passion for agriculture by being a founding member of AgToday, an organization designed to promote the growth and awareness of economic vitality shaped by the opportunities within agriculture.
What is your background in agriculture?
I grew up on my family’s dairy farm and was actively involved in youth agriculture associated organizations. For 12+ years I was involved in 4-H focusing my projects on dairy and later took interest in beef. I joined my local FFA chapter and competed in CDE’s for dairy judging, taking top team titles at a state convention, along with leadership positions in the local chapter. I also worked closely with the mission of Midwest Dairy Association during my time as a Finalist for Minnesota’s ambassador program. For as long as I’ve known, I’ve always been actively involved in the promotion of dairy and agriculture.
Why are you interested in pursuing an education with an Agriculture emphasis?
There are many reasons why I’m interested in pursuing a degree with an emphasis in agriculture, personal and objective. Personally, it’s an industry that I have deeps roots in, and have always had a passion for seeing the progression and innovation in agriculture. Objectively, agriculture is not and will not be a disappearing industry. The need for food and other products of agriculture will always be there. There are many actions that are taken place to produce a sustainable product, and a lot of those don’t even involve the farmer. I’m pursuing a communications degree with an emphasis in marketing, and with all the opportunities in agriculture, I know that my degree can directly impact this industry without needing to be on the farm.
What do you wish your generation knew about careers in agriculture?
My generation is actually about 3-4 [generations] removed from the farm, so there are a lot of things I wish they were more aware of, but the main one is that careers in agriculture don’t have to mean putting on work boots and heading out to field or barn. Even though I wish there was more respect from my generation for the people producing our food, it’s just not realistic that will come first. The mission of AgToday, newly started MSU organization, focuses on the business, science, engineering and technical side of the industry. It’s our members’ intent that we can educate our peers about the innovation and opportunities in agriculture.
How do you see your generation influencing the industry?
My generation is generally more adaptable to change, and we want to be a part of the next big thing, and for most, innovation in agriculture can be that. Sustainability is a common top of the conversation, especially for individuals in my generation. We’re very environmentally conscious, so as long as we learn and understand what farming practices will benefit the environment, and ourselves, we can create great change and innovation.