Food Science Major Chosen as USDA Future Leader in Agriculture

By Dustin Chandler / 02/28/2024 College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Family and Consumer Sciences

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University food and nutritional sciences major Alaina Brock recently returned from a trip to Washington to attend the Agricultural Outlook Forum with 19 other students chosen in USDA’s Future Leaders in Agriculture program.

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Feb. 28, 2024) – North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University student Alaina Brock has been chosen as a Future Leaders in Agriculture by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Brock, a senior majoring in food and nutritional sciences in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, is one of only 20 undergraduate and graduate students selected from the nation’s land-grant universities and Hispanic-serving institutions.

The program is aimed at undergraduates and graduate students majoring in agriculture-related subjects, including business, economics, communications, nutrition, food science and pre-veterinary studies. The University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Farm Credit Agency and USDA support the program.

“The Future Leaders Program is at the heart of our efforts to cultivate an agricultural workforce as diverse as America itself,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These students represent the exciting future of agriculture, and USDA is committed to fostering their development which is essential to ensuring a robust and sustainable food system.”

When Larry Hartsfield, N.C. A&T’s agricultural liaison officer to USDA, told Brock about the program, she didn’t think she had much of a chance.

“I thought it was mainly for those interested in agribusiness or agricultural policy,” said Brock, a Cheatham-White Scholar and Honors College student. “But then, I saw that food science was one of the majors allowed to apply, and it made me feel good because it told me, ‘You deserve to learn about the future of agriculture because your major relates to it.’“

As part of her application, Brock was tasked with writing a one-page essay on “Agriculture as a Career.”

“I’m a food science major, and we have a saying that ‘Everyone has to eat,’” she said. “That’s especially true given that our global population is booming. I talked about that in the essay, as well as my interests in food science, such as fermentation in dairy products.”

Brock traveled with other winners to Washington earlier this month to tour the capital and attend USDA’s premier annual event, the Agricultural Outlook Forum. The group also participated in several USDA briefings and had the opportunity to network with agency leaders.

“The forum looked at the state of agriculture in the United States – what crops are up-and-coming, what problems are we facing, and what needs to be addressed right now,” she said.

During the tour, Brock and the other students met USDA leaders, including USDA Chief Economist Seth Meyer, Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small and Vilsack.

“Meeting Secretary Vilsack and Deputy Secretary Torres Small was probably my favorite part of the trip,” said Brock. “Both of them were so personable and gave us insight on how they found their passions within agriculture. My fellow program participants and I were also proud when they mentioned how excited they were about the future of agriculture after our group discussed our interests and desired careers with them.”

In addition to agricultural policy, Brock said the session taught her a life lesson.

“Always be open to trying things,” she said. “When I heard about the program and the Agricultural Outlook Forum, I figured that I had no chance of winning, but I tried anyway. I’m proud of having that courage, especially given how small our cohort is this year and how competitive the program is.”

Media Contact Information: dlchandler@ncat.edu

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