July 15, 2024

FFA creed sparks interest in agricultural career

Former Miss West Virginia advocates for ag

Elizabeth Lynch (left) speaks with one of the 550 students who attended the Women Changing the Face of Agriculture event following her presentation about how she choose a career in agriculture. The former Miss West Virginia is currently working to complete her doctorate degree and has discovered that she enjoys research and working with chickens.

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Working in the agricultural industry is rewarding and helps make a difference in the world.

“When I was a freshman in high school, I learned the FFA creed and I learned more than I thought I would from the creed,” said Elizabeth Lynch, who spoke during a career development session at the Women Changing the Face of Agriculture event hosted by Illinois Agri-Women.

“The first line of the creed, ‘I believe in the future of agriculture,’ stood out and every time I hear it I get goose bumps,” said Lynch, who is currently working to complete her doctorate degree at West Virginia University.

“That line is why I choose a career in agriculture, because I want to be a part of that future and I want to make that impact.”

Lynch is a first-generation agriculturalist.

“My parents don’t own a farm,” said Lynch, who is from West Virginia and started riding horses as a young girl. “At 9 years old I got involved in 4-H and then FFA in high school.”

When Lynch began her college studies, she was a pre-vet major with the goal to become a veterinarian and work with horses.

“But that changed when I worked at a small ruminant research lab and did research with parasites and sheep and goats,” she said.

After completing her bachelor’s of science degree, Lynch enrolled at WVU to obtain a master’s degree.

“I worked with applied poultry nutrition and feed manufacturing science and after I graduated in the spring of 2020, my life got a little wild,” Lynch recalled.

“I found out that the Miss America organization is the largest provider of scholarships to women,” she said.

Lynch competed in the pageant and was selected Miss West Virginia.

“I traveled 40,000 miles and spent a year advocating for agriculture,” she said.

At the Miss America competition, Lynch was selected as the third runner-up.

“I wore jeans and Muck Boots on the Miss America stage and I was the first woman in 101 years to promote agriculture in the Miss America organization,” she said.

After completing her Miss West Virginia reign, Lynch returned to college and realized she likes chickens a lot.

“I am getting my Ph.D. and I’m interested in avian health from food and feed safety and I enjoy microbiology work,” she said.

There are many reasons for choosing a career in agriculture, Lynch told the high school and college ladies at the conference.

“Because people are retiring, agricultural degrees are in high demand with the expected shortage of 23,000 qualified people to fill openings in the next four years,” Lynch said.

“You have the ability to jump in the job more than other degrees are able to do,” she said. “And there’s a lot of support with scholarships and internships.”

In addition, there’s a growing need for agricultural technology students with the increasing use of GPS, apps and computers.

“There are a wide variety of careers in agriculture to match just about any interest area,” Lynch said. “And in 2050, there will be an additional 1 billion people in the world to feed.”

Food, fuel and fiber are the three things everyone needs to sustain their daily lives, Lynch said.

“That is something we’re all connected to every day,” she noted.

“I took my love for science and animals and combined them to be an animal science,” she said. “You have to figure out the main field you want to work and narrow it down from there.”

Lynch explained how her career travel developed after she chose the broad field of animal science.

“For me, my contribution to the field is research and development,” Lynch said.

“I figured out in my master’s program that I liked efficiency and production,” she said. “We need to create a food product that is cheap, quick to make and feed a lot of people. Poultry is one of the most efficient animals so we can accomplish that through avian health.”

At this time, Lynch is unsure of her career. However, she would like to be a professor so she can teach, do research and provide information to as many people as possible.

“You’re allowed to change your mind,” Lynch stressed to the students. “For me, I started with animal science and I wanted to be a veterinarian, but that’s not happening right now because I chose to change to research and development.”

The process of choosing a career, Lynch said, is not linear.

“It’s OK if you go backwards or branch off,” she said. “I’m interested in efficiency in production for poultry, but I also like food and feed safety and I love microbiology work.”

During her time as Miss West Virginia, Lynch branched off and was involved with ag advocacy.

“I might become the West Virginia commissioner of agriculture, you never know,” Lynch said.

“There are so many opportunities available to you in the agricultural industry and you are allowed to explore them all,” she said. “You belong in this industry — you have a passion or you wouldn’t be here.”

Martha Blum

Martha Blum

Field Editor