Growing up just 30 miles west of Lubbock, I knew a lot about cotton and cows. When we were on our way to the Rio Grande Valley with the MILE Program during the spring 2022 semester, I thought, “How much different can the agriculture really be?” The answer: a lot.
I got to see things in the valley that I could not have dreamed of before our trip. I saw the only sugar cane mill in Texas, a watermelon farm, an Akaushi beef operation, produce, and how Texas shrimp is packaged and distributed. While we saw many amazing things in the Valley, we also learned about real-world problems the people in the RGC are facing, including drought. As someone who has lived in West Texas her entire life, at first, I was puzzled. How can they be in a drought? They get rain a lot more often than us! While they do get more rain than the South Plains, they have not received the rainfall they are used to. The Valley has a unique source of water with the Rio Grande River. The Valley is distributed into different irrigation districts, and these districts allocate water from the river to farmers and residential areas. From a leadership perspective, this made me immediately think of what can be done to properly use the water. We got to hear from a local irrigation manager and hear the steps they are taking to allocate water properly.
Our South Texas experience was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see how things work firsthand as well as to learn how we can become better leaders in agriculture. My eyes were opened to all the different aspects of agriculture that is not just cotton and cows.
My first semester in the MILE program has been extremely beneficial. Our South Texas trip was the highlight of the first semester. Throughout the semester we got to experience etiquette training, hands-on leadership development, and resume critiquing while getting a better look at who we are as leaders with the Insights assessment. All these things have helped me pivot into becoming a stronger leader with a better understanding of all aspects of agriculture. The MILE Program has impacted me so much both as a leader and as a person in the first semester. I know this is only the tip of the iceberg, and I cannot wait to see what is in store.
Kennedy Wood is an animal science major from Levelland, Texas, and a member of the third cohort of the MILE Program.