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Getting a global ag perspective

By Staff | Jan 20, 2015

REBECCA CLAY, of Le Mars, poses during a visit to the Mole National Park in Ghana in March 2014, while an elephant browses in the background. Clay was serving as a student intern with ISU’s delegation to the U.S. Agency for International Development’s agricultural technology transfer project in Ghana.

LE MARS – Rebecca Clay, of Le Mars, is leaving Sunday for her third Third World ag internship, this time to Quito, Ecuador

She said gaining a world view of agriculture is important to her career path. She’s pursuing a double major at Iowa State University in agronomy and global resource assistance.

“I guess the best way to describe it is that I see myself and others in the role of protectors of all that is important to preserving and improving agriculture as we know it today,” Clay said.

The 14-week Semester in the Andes program provided by ISU’s Center for Interamerican Studies will be completed in May.

Clay said she expects the project will be as equally rewarding as two earlier foreign agriculture project – a 2014 U.S. Agency for International Development information sharing workshop on agricultural technology transfer, part of the organization’s Knowledge Management and Learning program in Tamale, Ghana; and a 2013 global studies visit to Kamuli, Uganda.

REBECCA CLAY, of Le Mars, and Easten Lovelace, of Grand Mound, share a moment with Nakanyoni Primary School students in Kamuli, Uganda, during a 2013 global studies visit.

The “sustainability of agriculture and how to improve it,” she said, is a significant factor in her pre-agriculture career journey.

David Acker, an ISU associate dean of academic and global programs, said, “The marketplace for agricultural products, services and ideas has become increasingly global, and it’s for this reason, it is essential we prepare students to be able to succeed in both domestic and international settings.

“The ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences believes undergraduate students (450 studying abroad annually) benefit tremendously from global experiences.

“When they return from an international study or internship experience we observe significant growth in terms of their understanding of the global food and agriculture system, appreciation for other cultures, and the self confidence that comes from knowing they can succeed anywhere in the world.

“A growing number of our students are committed to assisting farmers in countries with limited resources to improve their production and their standard of living.

INSTALLING A VEGETATION-COVERED living fence to keep roaming livestock as well as Nakanyoni students from walking across a garden near the school, was among experiences involved in Becca Clay’s 2013 Uganda visit. From left are students from Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, Seith Matex, Paul Otyama; and Juliet Kukundakwe and Clay.

“We have a global network of collaborators where we can place students like Becca to work on research, Extension and training projects to improve the livelihoods of others.”

Clay, the daughter of John and Kim Clay, of Le Mars, said her decision seek a career in agriculture was fostered by experiences on the farm of her material grandparents, Frank and Joan Smith, of Storm Lake.

Clay said she enjoys get-your-hands-dirty projects, such as ISU’s student organic farm, directed at strengthening community awareness and support of local food systems.

Adding to her global agriculture portfolio is her role as co-director of the ISU World Congress sponsored by the International Association of Students in Agriculture and Related Sciences. This year it attracted 54 international students from 18 countries.

Clay, looking at agriculture from a global and a local and regional viewpoint, said she sees numerous career possibilities awaiting future graduates like herself.

REBECCA CLAY, of Le Mars, an Iowa State University agriculture student, visits with Jim Huisman, of Hospers, a 1985 ISU animal science graduate and current pork producer, about her upcoming internship trip to Ecuador.

“As we consider future generations of food production and biodiversity within this picture 100 years from now, there’s much all of us can offer to keep it strong.

“Farmers as we know them locally and regionally are, I believe, basically doing a fairly good job in conservation with practices such as buffer strips and cover crops and care about their land.

“These and other productive management practices are extremely important here as well as globally.”

The world has to eat, she said, and as agriculture moves more into the world’s limelight, “all of us need to be aware of our responsibility to step up action and understanding of the value of conservation (and) sound animal welfare and overall agriculture production.

“It’s enlightening, and I look forward to being among those who can make it happen.”

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