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Agriculture Career Day at NYS Fair Highlights How Farms are Increasingly High-Tech

Kevin Fitzpatrick

Kids at the state fair Thursday got to imagine themselves as New York’s farmers of tomorrow.   As part of agriculture career day, young scientists performed hands-on experiments on local produce, and then set out on a scavenger hunt to learn about the ways the vital and expansive industry is advancing across the state. 

Director of Cornell’s Agriculture in the Classroom Program Katie Carpenter says that thanks to agricultural tech, modern farms are safer and more efficient than ever before. 

"We had a dairy farmer join us who said every single cow is wearing a Fitbit now. We are able to know when the cow comes in to feed, and if they didn't, maybe there's a problem.  We can find that individual animal and make sure there's not an illness or something we need to take care of.” 

Representatives from SUNY Morrisville and SUNY Cobleskill were also present to talk to students entering college about the array of job opportunities available under the umbrella of “agriculture.”  In 2018, a job in agriculture could mean anything from designing computer programs for advanced farm equipment to gene-mapping disease resistant strawberries. 

SUNY Cobleskill’s students might take part in an agriculture tech program sponsored by John Deere, in which the farm machinery company supplies equipment for students to learn on. Professor Douglas Hammond says advances made in onboard technology means agriculture tech students can’t simply be “grease monkeys” anymore.

"One of the things driving the need for technicians is the amount of technology on these pieces of equipment.  I don't think people realize this tractor right here has probably 40 computers on board.  The technology our students will have to deal with is quite high.”      

Despite the stratification of farm work in dozens of new directions, Dr. Lisa Livengood of SUNY Morrisville says all agriculture science has one goal in mind.

“How are we going to feed 9 billion people by 2050?  How can we do this sustainably?  Agriculture is on the forfront of trying to tackle that question...when we have a growing population, how are we going to feed everyone?  How do we get everyone to have access to good, nutritious food.”  

Leading the country in close to a dozen agricultural industries, New York farmers maintain trade relationships both domestically and abroad.  State Labor Commissioner Roberta Rearden says more young experts on trade will be needed for the state’s agricultural economy to continue to grow.

"We have very large international markets for our produce and our dairy.  That means you have to have people who are conversant with the regulations other countries have.   So, if you're producing for a foreign market, you have to know the regulations, and how you get certified to go into that market.  You have to have an international connection.  It's a growing part of the ag market here in New York State."

The fair continues Friday with Pride Day and the first of three Canadian Friendship days.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at