Cornell University hired an Urban Agricultural Education and FFA Specialist to support the NYC metro area’s ag education programs.
Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has hired an Urban Agricultural Education and FFA Specialist, Caitlyn McFadden, to support their current Agricultural Outreach and Education team.
CALS prides itself as a pioneer of purpose-driven science, working across many disciplines to tackle the challenges of our time through research, education, and outreach. Their hope for a new position on the is to bolster their sciences by promoting and establishing comprehensive agricultural education programs/FFA chapters in the greater New York City metro area for students of diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic communities. Along with believing the in the current possibilities, McFadden also hopes these programs’ students enhance diversity among agriculture careers and/or agriculture majors within post-secondary education.
“I think this role is impactful because it personally hits home for me,” she said.
McFadden began her life in Chicago, where she could only imagine what it really looked like to be an agriculturalist. Access to someone who was rooted in the industry to aid in telling its story was not possible.
“I didn’t hear many people saying they were in agriculture at school career days,” she said. “I imagined the agriculture industry to be only farming and large fields.”
After graduating from the Chicago High School for Agriculture Sciences, her focus shifted and led her down a path focused on agriculture education. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky and became newly determined to share with urban communities the true story of agriculture.
“I wanted to introduce urban communities to agriculture to help us better understand our plant and food systems, instead of how it is portrayed to be,” McFadden said.
Throughout her tenure, McFadden has the opportunity to provide access, understanding, and bridge-building between the five Burroughs of New York City and the state’s agriculture industry. She hopes she can be a part of changing the narrative of agriculture in the Burroughs, while also promotive leadership development skills within students of each of these communities.
“I will develop students leadership skills in these five Burroughs through the continual promotion of FFA, which has been a lifelong dream of mine,” she said.
McFadden can make a positive impact on the current demographic of the National FFA Organization, along with other secondary and post-secondary youth agriculture leadership organizations. Not only providing an increased racial, ethnic, and socio-economic presence to these spaces, but also a diverse perspective on the role of agriculture in our current and future contexts.
“Agriculture education is important because by the year 2050, we are anticipated to hit a population of 9 billion people. Imagine having future leaders who are devoted to feeding the world and being change makers?,” McFadden said. “My goal would be to develop those future leaders at a young age to be agriculturally literate and skilled to thrive in the workforce.”
McFadden is all about access, education, and the future. With access, she imagines a world where we all are equipped with the knowledge to be a part of a sustainable and diverse agriculture community. McFadden believes that education is that access needed for this prosperous future.
“To me, education is the foundation. The foundation of all things,” she said. “Training a child up young is the path to their future success.”
McFadden’s position is one of the first of its kind to be established within the state of New York and one of the first across the nation in connection with a State FFA Organization. With an emphasis on urban, low socio-economic, racial and ethnic diversity within organizations like FFA and agriculture education in general, it is our hope that her role will spark inspiration for other Career Technical Organizations and agriculture programs alike to create positions that are intentional about enhancing the diversity of their organizations. Especially in the realm of urban communities and access to resources that provide them with ample opportunities to engage in our educational programs.
Bre Holbert is a past National FFA President and studies agriculture science and education at California State-Chico. “Two ears to listen is better than one mouth to speak. Two ears allow us to affirm more people, rather than letting our mouth loose to damage people’s story by speaking on behalf of others.”