Grant to help fund education and agriculture project
Program to bring more attention to agricultural awareness
Published: Friday, September 20, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 19, 2013 16:09
Years of planning finally paid off for Dr. Kirk Braden and Dr. Loree Branham, two assistant professors with the Department of Agriculture, who received a three-year grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to fund a research and recruiting program.
The project that the grant will fund is focused on education and spreading awareness of agriculture, Braden said. Also in the plans for the project is the recruitment of students from rural areas to teach them more about agriculture and provide them with employment opportunities after college.
“The project is largely an educational project from the standpoint of recruiting and retaining students in minority populations into agriculture, while increasing [agricultural] awareness in all populations, but especially in under served populations,” Branham said.
The total grant amount is $270,000, which will be split between the three years, Braden said.
“For example, the first year we don’t have much to retain since we haven’t recruited,” Branham said. “A significant amount of the money that we have allotted for the first year will go toward recruitment opportunities, including producing a video. We identified the misconception that the only occupations within the field of agriculture are working in a field and being a vet. To help address that misconception, we are going to put together a professionally produced video that talks about all the opportunities within agriculture—everything from food production, food quality assurance to food safety, which is obviously a hot topic nowadays.”
Branham said she is overwhelmed and excited about receiving this grant, which will help to bring their recruiting project to life.
“We have been working on this proposal for three years now,” she said. “It is a great opportunity for us and for ASU and the Department of [Agriculture] as a whole. The fact that they thought ASU was worthy to recruit students is great.”
The official day the program launched was Sept. 1, Branham said. For now, there is still behind-the-scenes work to get done before anything else.
“These first couple of months are primarily for planning,” Branham said. “There is a lot of paperwork. There are a lot of initial purchases that we need to get in place before we can jump into the actual recruitment effort.”
Branham said the USDA has come to a realization that its employment is nowhere near representative of the actual population of the states. This program would help introduce employment opportunities with the USDA to a bigger variety of students.
“[The USDA] has identified, especially within the Hispanic population, that there is a huge discrepancy, and so they requested proposals to address that issue,” Branham said. “Particularly we are focusing on recruiting [students] into fields that go into the USDA.”
Braden said he sees success for the program and knows it will help to bring more attention to what agriculture is.
“One of the main goals is to increase awareness to those [rural] areas to the point that we will continually see students coming into agricultural fields from those areas,” Braden said.
Branham said she wants to let the program do its job, which is to educate.
“[There] are several generations of farmers and ranchers, and you are seeing that number drop significantly, yet we are seeing the population of the U.S. increase,” Branham said. “Someone has to feed those people. We are losing these food producers at every level and it addresses that big challenge. Also, [we want to] increase [agriculture] literacy. As a public, we are losing that connection to agriculture production. [There are] kids growing up in urban environments who think milk comes from the store. They don’t realize that, originally, milk came from a cow.”
On top of this grant, Braden said he and Branham are working together to try to receive additional funding for future projects.
“Dr. Branham and I recently submitted a grant proposal with Texas Tech two weeks ago,” he said. “It will be reviewed and hopefully we are lucky enough to get that as well. It is largely scholarship-orientated and it’s a multicultural scholarship program to where it will be a full ride for ten students split between the two universities.”
Braden said the program will continue after the grant period is over. During the review process, it is important to show that the programs will be able to continue after the grant’s grace period.
“In terms of this project, it is not just a three-year project and once we’re done, we’re done,” Branham said. “One of the reasons I feel they funded this is because we made a very specific purpose to explain that we are setting up programs that are sustainable through the university as a whole. Hopefully we will find some good stuff that works and share that. It starts in high school and hopefully it ends with [students] getting a job directly as an undergraduate or going into graduate school to further their education.”