Next Gen Ag: The art of teaching and innovating on the farm

by | Feb 14, 2024

Next Gen Ag is a year long series that will run on our In The Field blog, Facebook page, Instagram page and Twitter account. Each Wednesday, we will highlight a young person pursuing a career in the agriculture industry. Individuals can be in high school, college, or recent graduates who are working to establish a career in agriculture. Stay tuned each week to meet some of our industry’s future leaders!

Growing up in New Mexico, Isaiah Barco was surrounded by agriculture at a young age. Where most kids wanted to be a rockstar, doctor or veterinarian, Isaiah always told his parents that he wanted to be a farmer of a bull rider when he got older. “I grew up watching the ranchers near our home and was mesmerized by the work that they did,” he said. Although his family has a background in agriculture, Isaiah is the first in a couple generations to pursue our state’s number one industry as a career.

In his middle school years, Isaiah attended a science camp at N.C. State University where they explored the art of science and agriculture. “I fell in love with all that agriculture can do while attending that camp,” he said. “I didn’t realize how deep agriculture’s roots run. It is in everything that we do as humans. Everything that we depend on, from clothes and food to supplies and materials, is rooted in agriculture.” In high school, Isaiah was involved in a project that furthered his passion and love for the industry by utilizing agricultural materials to create a product that people need. “Through this project, I made band-aids from the fiber found in tree bark,” he said. “It truly opened up my eyes to all that I could do in agriculture, the possibilities that were open to me, and how I can make an impact on this vast industry.” That passion and intention to change the world led Isaiah to pursue a degree at North Carolina A&T State University. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies a few years ago and recently received his master’s degree in Agriculture Education.

Today, Isaiah works as a 4H Extension Agent with Cooperative Extension in Mecklenburg County. “In our county, I work a lot with horticulture, livestock and the STEM program,” he said. “My job is to help meet the demand of kids in our county that want to pursue careers in these areas and help them reach their future goals.” Throughout his work with Mecklenburg County Extension, Isaiah brings a variety of skillsets to the table including passion, drive, perspective, innovation, modern ideas, and social media skills. “Many people who work with extension were raised on a farm, which gives them a great understanding when working with farmers or aspiring agriculture leaders,” he said. “However, I feel like I bring something unique to the table because I didn’t come from a farming background, but I can present a modern point of view and a unique perspective on the industry because of my past experiences.”

Although Isaiah loves many aspects of his job at extension and being a part of the agriculture industry in general, his favorite things is helping to educate students and adults alike on on our state’s number one industry. “Many people are so far removed from the agriculture industry today that they don’t understand the depth or importance of it,” he said. “I love to reconnect people with the industry and see their eyes light up as they learn about agricultural concepts like pollination, harvest, crops and more. It’s incredibly rewarding to know that I play a role in helping to educate the next generation through my work with extension.”

In the future, Isaiah simply hopes to continue impacting and growing the agriculture industry no matter what he does. He is currently contemplating pursuing his PhD but has big aspirations for a career in agriculture either way. “With my background in research, I would love to be involved with agricultural research some day or hold up a high position with extension where I can impact more people on a daily basis,” he said. “However, I have also contemplated becoming an agriculture teacher since I am so passionate about educating people on this industry and it’s importance to the state and the world.” No matter what path he chooses to take, Isaiah’s biggest goal is to remain in agriculture and continue impacting the world through his work.

For those seeking a career in agriculture, Isaiah recommends doing some research to determine which area of the industry speaks to you. “The agriculture industry is so vast that it can reach a variety of interests, from farming and technology to marketing and computer science,” he said. “Discover what lane fuels your passion and get involved. Educate yourself, get hands on experience and make connections.” We are so proud of Isaiah’s work in the industry and look forward to seeing where the future takes him!