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Exposing the opportunities of agriculture to a diverse generation

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How MANRRS helps steer minority talent to careers in agriculture

04.13.21

Raised in a military family, Joshua Southerling moved around to many different towns – none of which were farming communities. Aside from driving past farms on the highway, he says, he had almost no exposure to agriculture.

That changed after an enlightening meeting with a college advisor at the University of Kentucky, where he planned to study accounting.

“My advisor showed me all the jobs that alumni from the College of Agriculture with an ag econ degree had obtained, and it was so vast,” says Joshua. “That’s what got me into the College of Ag.”

But what kept him there, he says, was an organization called MANRRS: Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences. Backed by Farm Credit Mid-America, MANRRS supports minority college students pursuing careers in agriculture, an industry in which diverse populations have been underrepresented.

Joshua, now a credit analyst with Farm Credit Mid-America for eight years, says the program is what sustained his interest as a college student.

Joshua says he’s grateful the College of Ag and MANRRS exposed him to opportunities that led to a rewarding career in agriculture – even though he never stepped foot on a farm until he interned with Farm Credit Mid-America as a college student.

Now, he often visits farms to connect with customers, helping them on a wide range of needs – from financing a new tractor to setting up a line of credit for their operation.

“I love visiting farms – sitting at a customer’s kitchen table and talking about their operation, their family, what was passed down,” says Joshua. “Growing up, I knew I wanted to part of something that was important. Agriculture fulfills that need because it’s the cornerstone of our economy. Everything else is built upon this industry.”