Organic Farmer

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Copyright © 1998

By Dr. Martin L. Price, Scott D. Sherman & Larry Yarger
Revised 11/06

There are two parts to this document; part 1 provides a brief description of the things a college student should consider as he/she chooses opportunities for learning and part 2 lists organizations that provide somepractical training. The second section will be most useful for individuals applying to or who have been accepted by a mission and are preparing for service, and for missionaries that have limited knowledge of agriculture, health care, and appropriate technology yet realize their ministry has some level of involvement in one or more of these areas. Part I. COLLEGE PREPARATION AND BEYOND We frequentlyreceive letters from people who sense a calling to serve the needy overseas. They ask questions such as: "How can I best use my science background to serve the Lord and the needy overseas?" "Are there viable options other than medicine?" and "I feel God is calling me to help the poor and needy feed themselves. What is the best training for such work?" Our work puts us in a position to correspond withmany agricultural missionaries. You would understand the difficulty of providing a straightforward answer to the above questions if you knew the diversity of backgrounds these folks represent. We hope the following observations and comments will be helpful. 1) Choose your direction. In planning your college course of study, first decide whether you want to help the Third World farmer indirectlythrough research or directly through extension type work. If by research, then academic training at the graduate level becomes very important. Be warned that opportunities for employment in research where the primary purpose is to help Third World farmers on small farms are strictly limited. You can talk to professors at any land grant institution for advice on how to prepare for a research career.If you prefer to work directly with farmers in an overseas setting, you need to study as broadly as possible. Areas of study should focus on the four categories: working with plants, working with animals, working with materials (appropriate technologies), and working with people. You should also be aware that your credentials could be your way of entry into another country. If you will be workingas a full-time agriculturist overseas, many countries will require evidence (copies of transcripts and diplomas) that you have educational training in agriculture.

ECHO, 17391 Durrance Rd., North Ft. Myers FL 33917, USA Phone: (239) 543-3246; Fax: (239) 543-5317 e-mail:; website-

2 For those attending an agricultural school (by no means a must), tryto get as general a degree as possible, studying such subjects as animal science, agronomy, horticulture, soil science, plant pathology, plant physiology, plant taxonomy, entomology, forestry, and plant breeding. If aquaculture is available take at least one course, if agroforestry courses are offered, take all you can. Any opportunities to take courses in international agriculture would be mosthelpful. In addition, courses in marketing of agricultural products and adult education (courses required of an extension agent) could also prove to be useful. If you are interested in training at the graduate level, you should give serious thought to animal science, aquaculture, horticulture, cropping systems or agroforestry. Do not be limited by the confines of the particular training youreceive. Formal academic work prepares the mind with information and skills, but comprises only a small part of what you will know when you are 40 years old. A person with a well-trained mind is in a position to develop an expertise in most any area of study. Academic training should give you special freedom to pursue many directions. Do not slight the liberal arts! You are more likely to pick up the...