With the graying of New Jersey’s and the nation’s farmers, many are posing the question – who will be the next generation of growers? Beyond that lies a diverse structure of agricultural-affiliated industries that face a similar conundrum. A recent National Institute of Food and Agriculture/Purdue University study projects that, in the coming years, there will be nearly 58,000 high-skilled job openings annually in the food, agriculture, and renewable resource sectors, a level of employment opportunity far exceeding the number of students graduating from traditional agriculture majors. Nearly half of these jobs will be in the fields of business and management.
To address this concern, in the spring of 2017, The Clearing Corporation Charitable Foundation endowed $1 million to develop a new agribusiness scholars program at Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. In addition, the Foundation recently announced a challenge grant matching all donations up to an additional $250,000.
Named the Clearing Corporation Charitable Foundation (CCCF) Agribusiness Scholars Program, it will equip high achieving students with the knowledge, leadership qualities, analytical skills, and experiences required for successful careers in the domestic and global agribusiness sector.
Ira Polk, a director at CCCF and a Rutgers University alum, shares the motivation behind this groundbreaking gift, “We collectively believe that students who want to succeed need access to real world experiences and mentors who can bridge the gap between classroom learning and skill sets that are required on the job.”
With its launch in the fall semester of 2018, the program will support student development by blending traditional academic coursework with experience-based learning and self-directed study. The program’s two capstone seminar courses and out-of-classroom academic enrichment activities (e.g., trips to New York City’s financial district, Washington DC, and agribusinesses) will allow students to interact with industry and public sector leaders and develop informed perspectives on contemporary issues affecting agribusiness.
At this critical phase in the development and launch of the program, in addition to the initial endowment, CCCF has challenged Rutgers to raise additional funding by March 31, 2018. CCCF has agreed to match donations on a dollar for dollar basis up to $250,000. This challenge will help increase the $1 million endowment to support the Agribusiness Scholars Program.
“So often we discuss how we can encourage the next agricultural generation,” commented Ann Dorsett, secretary/treasurer of Gloucester County Board of Agriculture (GCBA) in New Jersey. GCBA has provided a $20,000 donation to the matching fund. “The GCBA budget committee recognized immediately that this project has great potential for our future. And the board stepped up immediately to authorize the donation, Dorsett continued. “I am very proud to be part of an organization that recognizes a project that means a lot to us. We want to express our willingness to support Ag Scholars substantively and encourage other Boards to make as serious commitments as they can afford.”
CCCF and Rutgers invite partners to help impact the agribusiness industry. Examples of opportunities include:
- Hosting paid student internships.
- Supporting co-curricular activities such as field trips, guest lecturers and conference registrations.
- Providing merit- or need-based awards to assist students with the completion of the program.
- Hosting a seminar or conference on current issues impacting agribusiness.
Financial support of this program will not only help the students, it will ultimately support the agribusiness industry by providing the next generation of agribusiness leaders with an in-depth understanding of the contemporary issues driving New Jersey agricultural business and the performance of the global agricultural marketplace. Developing strong relationships between Rutgers University and the agribusiness sector will prepare students for the agri-industry of the future. Please note that the matching challenge is for funds pledged and collected by March 31, 2018. Funds need to be received by June 30, 2018. Visit www.support.rutgers.edu/agribusinessscholars to make an online donation to support the program.
For more information, visit clearingagscholars.rutgers.edu or contact the program directors: associate professor Brian Schilling (email@example.com, 848-932-9127) and agricultural agent Stephen Komar (firstname.lastname@example.org, 973-948-3040); or associate dean for philanthropy and strategic partnerships Melissa McKillip (email@example.com, 848-932-4214).