Sophomore’s ag interests take her on trip to Washington, D.C.

Like most CFHS students, sophomore Rachel Brokenshire lives in a house on a suburban street, and gets most of her food from a grocery store. From outward appearances, she would not seem to be someone interested in agriculture.

But, she is part of a six-generation Iowa farm family and a member of 4-H. Those connections are what helped to inspire her to apply to a recent contest to attend an agriculture conference in Washington, D.C.

Brokenshire was one of winners of the contest and attended earlier this month.

“I honestly didn’t really expect to win the contest, but I just love learning, and I love meeting new people, so the idea of winning the contest was pretty cool. From living in Iowa and my grandpa being a farmer, agriculture did seem interesting and something I felt would be really useful and beneficial to know more about,” Brokenshire said.

At the 4-H “Science Matters” Agri-Science Summit conference in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 12, Brokenshire learned about the value of agriculture education in Iowa and in the world.

“The conference really made me realize that agriculture is something that we often take for granted. It’s so easy for us to go to store and buy whatever we want and not even consider or have to consider where it came from. I now realize that the agriculture education I’ve received through the Cedar Falls school system and from living in Iowa is quite rare and something a lot of people don’t get the chance to learn about or experience,” she said.

Iowa is known for being a leading state in agriculture. Out of the 19 states present at the conference, Brokenshire was Iowa’s sole representative, and she appreciated

people’s knowledge of the state. “Typically, if you travel out of state and you tell people you’re from Iowa, they’ll be like, ‘So, is that a city? Don’t you grow potatoes there?’ At an agri-science conference, when you tell people you’re from Iowa, it’s like the coolest thing ever — ‘You’re like at the center of agriculture.’ So that was different,” Brokenshire said.

The conference was about a lot more than just tractors, corn and soybeans.“There is so much more to agriculture than just farming. I met one girl who wanted to be a lawyer specifically for ag-related issues. I met another girl who wanted to be a journalist in like South America and create awareness on the threats that affect rainforests. There were workers from NASA who specialized in agriculture, agricultural scientists, ag-related business men and women, and workers in the government who specialized in agriculture topics and issues. I think people, especially teenagers, just need to be aware of all the different opportunities available in agriculture. It’s not just limited to being a farmer. Plus, if you’re interested in making a difference in the world, agriculture is a field where you are literally helping feed the world,” she said.

Everyone who attended the conference was encouraged to devise an “action plan” to help their home communities. “A lot of teenagers had plans to educate their communities and schools more on agriculture. I didn’t really feel like ag-literacy was a huge problem in Iowa, so instead I chose to focus on the problem of the Emerald Ash Borer. The E.A.B is a beetle that targets and eventually kills ash trees, and it’s rapidly spreading around the U.S. Cedar Falls has had to cut down hundreds of ash trees because of the disease, so my action plan is making the public more aware of this disease, and then also planting new trees to make up for the hundreds of trees that have had to be cut down,” she said.

Influencing younger students is also an important thing for Brokenshire to accomplish. She embraces the part of being a true Iowan at heart and knows that science matters.

“Iowa is very strong in the field of agriculture. It’s important for younger kids to understand why agriculture is such an important science. Kids should be educated on where there food comes from and how it’s made, and should be aware of the importance of agriculture in feeding the world and the significant role Iowa plays in doing just that. It definitely makes you proud to be an Iowan,” she said.

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