It takes more than giving these farmers technologies and resources, such as tractors and seed, Everitt said. It takes boots on the ground efforts and support. While he has witnessed several retired farmers traveling to developing countries through churches and other organizations to try to help people learn to farm, more coordination for education needs to happen.
“If you think about the agricultural cycle, it’s a year-long cycle,” he said. “One part of the year you plant, one part of the year you cultivate and one part of the year you harvest. Getting farmers (in developing countries) to provide the right kind of maintenance for their tractors or combines so they are ready to go at the right time of the year is a challenge. We do that automatically and know how to do that. They might not think about it.”
Sustainable education, therefore, is needed for farmers in developing countries, Everitt said. Not only do they need instruction for using the latest technologies in agricultural production, they also could use assistance in managing money, taking out loans and learning about interest rates.
Growing manufacturing versus production agriculture
Government support for production agriculture varies around the world, Everitt said, and at times government leaders don’t see the value of growing their food production.
Personally, Everitt said he has had conversations with government leaders who would rather invest in a John Deere tractor factory than support agricultural production. They see those factories and the potential number of jobs as immediate returns.
“What they don’t understand is that tractor factory may generate say 100 jobs,” he said. “If they would apply that value to growing agriculture, you have farmers, seed producers, agricultural equipment dealers and food processors. The same amount of investment might generate three or four times more for economic development.”
A look at the future
Everitt said students who are interested in working in agriculture have many opportunities. Working for a company interested in solving the world food issues, such as seed, chemical, equipment or finance companies focused in agriculture, and joining professional organizations helps young professionals collaborate and take advantages of opportunities.
Research is another way to get involved, he said, especially research in the areas of plant and animal disease, as well as preventing postharvest food losses.
“Unfortunately, as we advance through time, you get different disease issues that manifest themselves,” Everitt said. “All of that has to be improved, because if you increase the density of plantings, diseases take root faster. I think the challenge is getting the research focused on the right attributes to be able to match where we need it, rather than something of general interest.”
The Eyestone Distinguished Lecture Series, established in 2000, is made possible by a generous endowment from the late Fred and Mona Eyestone. Learn more about the series and view a video archive of all past lectures at https://www.engg.ksu.edu/ergp/lectures/eyestone.