In agriculture, when we talk about diversity we are usually talking about crop rotations, the cattle herd, or hybrid breeding. Diversity isn’t always a hot topic when we talk about the people working in this industry, but it can make a powerful difference.
Dr. Jeneen Abrams is a soybean breeder at Purdue University and believes in the power of diversity to entice people into agriculture. She’s the first to say that her background is not a traditional for many plant breeders — Abrams grew up in north Philadelphia in a neighbourhood miles from rural life.
“I lived in a city and was a kid that gravitated to green things, I had an aunt …who kept a garden, and anytime that I got a chance to cultivate rhubarb or pick strawberries I did that,” Abrams says.
At the Bayer Agvocacy Forum, Abrams brought home the message that diversity is very powerful in operations, problem solving, and profitability. Abrams is the national president of MANNRS, whose mission is to promote academic and professional advancement by empowering minorities in agriculture, natural resources, and related sciences.
Diversity can come in many different forms through gender, race, and background. Abrams says that diversity is about inclusion of everyone, including the people that have been in the industry for generations. She notes, “Diversity includes white males, diversity includes everyone including caucasian males, and African American males.”
“If I look around the room I see that there are more women in this industry besides just providing administrative support.”
To attract diversity into the industry needs to start earlier than just university graduates. It starts with young kids in schools and exposing them to the diverse opportunities that agriculture can provide whether you are interested in science, logistics, or sales. “It’s not that children aren’t interested in agriculture, it’s that they are under exposed to it,” Abrams says.
In Canada, programs such as Agriculture in the Classroom strive to achieve exactly the exposure that Abrams is talking about.
In hybrid plant breeding, diversity creates better varieties, higher yields, and higher profits, and according to Janeen Abrams of Purdue University that holds true in the workplace as well.
You can hear this great discussion with the very inspiring Jeneen Abrams, Purdue University plant breeder, below.