The MILE Program completed the second of its three regional agriculture tours Oct. 15-16, 2022, while exploring the diverse agriculture community on the South Plains.
The two-day tour, which was sponsored by AgTexas Farm Credit Services, featured the region’s crop industry, including cotton, sorghum, corn, wine grapes, and peanuts. Students in the third cohort of the MILE program met with industry leaders and producers through a variety of meetings and on-farm visits to gain a better understanding of the region’s agriculture industry.
Historic drought has plagued crops in the region and throughout the state this year, resulting in a dramatic reduction in production. However, learning about the impacts of drought, input costs, markets and other challenges is important for students to learn.
“Regional ag tours are an essential component of the MILE Program to ensure students get exposure to the diverse issues affecting the industry throughout our state,” said Lindsay Kennedy, Ph.D., director of the MILE Program. “The southern plains have really been hit hard this year by drought, and our students are seeing firsthand how that impacts the regional economy and its producers. There are valuable lessons for them to learn during these hard years as they begin understanding all the inner workings of our industry.”
The South Plains Ag Tour is one of three regional agriculture tours during the three-semester MILE Program. The group traveled to the Rio Grande Valley in April, and in the spring of 2023, they will tour the Texas Panhandle.
“When you combine these field-based, hands-on ag tours with industry networking opportunities and professional development workshops, our hope is that it helps create well-rounded young leaders who will enter the workforce after they leave Texas Tech,” Kennedy said.
Even with all three tours taking place in Texas, there are vast differences between the regions. Each has its own unique agricultural products, challenges, and opportunities that contribute to the identity of the area.
“Much like all of our MILE experiences, the South Plains Tour was eye-opening,” said John Owen, an agricultural and applied economics major from Sealy, Texas. “Getting to learn about all of the facets of agriculture that are so vital to the way West Texas runs made me appreciate even more this wonderful region that’s provided so much to me.”
Touring several distinct areas in Texas allows students to experience their own familiar territories through a new lens. Specifically, the South Plains Tour allowed students from West Texas to see the issues impacting their region from several different perspectives.
“Growing up all around Lubbock, I thought I knew everything there was to know about West Texas, but the South Plains Ag Tour opened my eyes to so many different aspects of agriculture on the South Plains,” said Kade Miller, an animal science major from Panhandle, Texas. “Mason Becker’s peanut farm in Brownfield was a highlight for me. It was a great opportunity to learn more about the peanut industry during our tour.”
Other MILE students benefited from tour stops that directly related to their career interests. Sara Garcia is a plant and soil science major from Houston and hopes to enter the wine industry when she graduates from Texas Tech.
“I loved listening to the story behind Farmhouse Vineyards, and how, although they now produce wine, they still want to be known for the grapes they sell,” Garcia said. “My biggest takeaway from listening to all these professionals is how important it is for the different commodity groups to work together and respect each other.”
On behalf of the MILE Program, thank you to all of our tour hosts, meal sponsors, and speakers for investing their time in our students.
- David Gibson, Texas Corn
- Tim Lust, National Sorghum Producers/Sorghum Checkoff
- Kody Bessent, Plains Cotton Growers, Inc.
- Tom Sell, Combest Sell & Associates
- Kayla Robinson, AgTexas Farm Credit Services
- Tim McDonald, AgTexas Farm Credit Services
- Dan and Linda Taylor, lunch sponsor and tour host at Buster’s Gin
- Katy Jane Seaton and Traci Ferguson, Farmhouse Vineyards
- Jeremy Brown, Broadview Ag, organic cotton producer
- Mason Becker, peanut producer
- Eric Wanjura, Farmers Cooperative Compress
- South Plains Food Bank