There are an estimated 7.5 billion people on the planet currently, and scientists have projected the population to increase to 9 billion by 2050. As a student studying agriculture, one of my tasks is to learn how to feed a growing population in a world with dwindling resources. In early June, I attended the 53rd annual conference for the Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development in Washington D.C. This year’s theme was all about climate S.M.A.R.T. agriculture. S.M.A.R.T. agriculture focuses on…

  • Security and Sustainability
  • Markets and Trade
  • Adaptation and Conservation
  • Research and Innovation
  • Training and education

Over the course of four days I networked with leaders in the international agriculture and rural development community, deans of universities, professors, graduate students, undergraduate students and other professionals from the U.S and abroad. Everyone I talked to was committed to improving food security around the world through the global collaboration of farmers, researchers, educators, and investors. It was inspiring to walk into a room where everyone cared about climate change and feeding the world. Throughout the conference, speakers addressed the ways the U.S. gains when investing in foreign agriculture and how the creation of multi-stakeholder coalitions focused on voluntary, market-based, incentivized solutions for farmers in a changing climate would ensure a sustainable future.

I was one of two undergraduates in the nation to attend the conference. Attending this conference was an inspiring experience and helped to focus my academic and career goals towards how I can be a future leader of agriculture in a world with a changing climate. Subsistence is not a desired human condition, but is the reality for millions of individuals around the world who face food insecurity every day. During the career workshop, I learned how to prepare myself to succeed in the international and rural development job market. As of 2015, 63.3% of new hires had a master's degree in international agriculture. 14.2% had a degree in agriculture science, food science or nutrition. Language skills in French, Spanish, and Arabic were highly desired, as well as having previous experience through internships, academic fieldwork, international travel, and Peace Corps assignments.

Due to generous financial support from Dr. Hiram Larew, Dr. Stella Coakley, the College of Agricultural Sciences, and the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, I was able to meet inspiring leaders in international agriculture and rural development who were more than willing to give me tips and advice on how to pursue a career in international agriculture and rural development. Attending this conference also motivated me to apply for a Branch Experiment Station Internship in Hermiston, Oregon. I am working with an agronomist researching soil nutrient cycling and how biochar and mycorrhizal symbiosis can increase plant nutrient uptake while reducing environmental pollution. After attending the AIARD conference I am confident that the future of agriculture is innovative, sustainable and inclusive because ordinary people around the world are stepping up, becoming leaders and cultivating a future where environmental stewardship and feeding the world are one in the same.

Abigail Findley and Rita Abi-Ghanem, Sr. Director of Research and Development at Bio Huma Netics, Inc and soil scientist.

Chirps, tortilla chips made from cricket flour.

A chocolate chip cookie made from cricket flour