Wise pursuits: farm, food, and environmental policy in California
January 29, 2020

“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.” I’ve long held this famous quote by Thomas Jefferson close to my heart. Growing up on a corn, soybean and beef cattle farm, agriculture has played a significant role in shaping me into who I am today. After deciding to pursue a career in agriculture, I realized there would be no better place to equip myself for that future than the University of Illinois. This decision, and these people and classes, will forever have an impact on my life and career.

Last spring, I took a step out of my comfort zone and decided to take a course called “Farm, Food and Environmental Policy in California.” This class was one of the first examples of a wise pursuit at the University, and it strongly influenced my love for the field. Before traveling to California during spring break, I knew my future would in some way involve agriculture. During the trip, we had the opportunity to tour businesses and farms, along with getting to meet California Secretary of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross. She grew up on a farm in Nebraska and I was amazed by the amount of knowledge she had on various agricultural issues. She, as well as other speakers and industry professionals, made me realize that I, too, can make an impact within the industry.

What else did I learn? Sometimes, it takes stepping away from the family farm to realize how incredible agriculture is and how important it is in society. Through this class, I had the opportunity to do just that and more. In his quote, Jefferson mentioned that agriculture contributes to happiness. I saw that in California, where people were passionate about agriculture. Although not every moment in this industry is a pleasant one, the end result for almost all individuals is an overall feeling of happiness. As agriculturists, our main mission is to feed the world, and who wouldn’t be happy knowing they are doing just that? We met California families who work together to not only make a living, but to live off the land, and are happy with what they have. This is something I could relate to, as nothing makes me happier than seeing everything my family has accomplished together in agriculture.

Through this experience, I have realized that the wisest pursuit I can have is a connection to agriculture and farming. It is because of opportunities like this one that students have the ability to learn about agriculture and grow the same sense of love for the industry that many agriculturists have. Whether I am on the farm day to day, or helping educate consumers on the importance of agriculture, this industry is one I am passionate about and know I will have a future career supporting the field.