Next Gen Ag: Changing the world and leaving an impact

by | Mar 6, 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!

Ever since he was in elementary school, Miles Lee has seen agriculture as a way to improve and change the world. From staying after school to start a garden and landscaping project in the school’s courtyard to FFA projects and various internships, Miles is well on his way to an agricultural career and is educating anyone and everyone that he can along the way.

Many elementary-aged children are typically found playing on the swings or riding the slide in their free time, but Miles and his friends could be found in the courtyard building and tending to the school garden. “One day my friends and I noticed a lot of supplies, including soil and mulch, in the science lab that wasn’t being used,” he said. “So, we took the initiative to improve the school courtyard by landscaping and adding a community garden. We would work before school, if there was time, and after school to cultivate the area and tend the garden. It turned out to be a beautiful space!” Growing up, Miles and his family had a few neighborhood friends growing food in their backyard and within the community, so Miles was able to observe their lifestyle, habits, and goals from a young age. Between watching those individuals reach their agricultural goals and building the community garden at school, a passion for agriculture was born that would map the trajectory of his life.

“Agriculture came into my life at such a young age and, honestly, it was something I thought for many years wasn’t an achievable career for me,” Miles said. “I wanted to have an impact in my career, and it wasn’t until high school that I realized I can do that in agriculture.” In the ninth-grade, Miles joined the FFA at his high school, which helped to grow his confidence as an agricultural leader. “FFA changed my life and exposed me to many facets of agriculture I didn’t know about,” he said. During his senior year of high school, Miles applied for the USDA 1890 Scholarship Program and was honored to receive a full-ride scholarship to North Carolina A&T State University where he is studying Agricultural and Environmental Systems with a focus on Sustainable Land and Food Systems. “I knew that was my sign from God that agriculture was where I was supposed to spend my career,” he said. “Since that moment, many doors of opportunity have been opened to me and I can hardly wait to see what the future holds for my career.”

Miles is currently a Junior in college, where he is actively involved in programs, student organizations and activities related to his major. “In my classes, we often discuss challenges and potential market opportunities for small-scale farmers,” he said. “We study soil health management, urban agriculture, integrated pest management, emerging technologies, specialty crops and other topics to help diversify, strengthen and improve climate resilience for farms in the state.” He also works with a student organization known as MANRRS, or Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences, which helps encourage and promote minority student participation in agricultural careers across a variety of majors, including communications, information technologies and environmental science. Last September, MANRRS partnered with the FFA to bring more individuals to a career in agriculture and the National FFA Organization partnered to target underrepresented audiences, bring more individuals into a career in agriculture, and provide them with the resources to succeed. “Agriculture is the basis of society. It’s something that connects us all because it touches our lives every single day,” Miles said. “We should all be able to unite around agriculture.”

Although he isn’t entirely sure where the future might lead, Miles knowns without a shadow of a doubt that he wants to teach, educate, and inspire throughout his career. “I love to educate people on the importance of our state’s number one industry,” he said. “I also want to inspire the next generation of agricultural leaders that will come up after me. I know that I will always continue to learn new things myself, but I want to share the knowledge that I have with others on a daily basis. I love teaching moments!” Miles is considering a career as a conservation agronomist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, high school agriculture teacher, or even a college professor. His unique and diversified perspective, communication skills and passionate personality are all strengths that will help him move forward in whatever agricultural career he decides to pursue.

Although he loves many aspects of the agriculture industry, Miles says that nothing compares to the culture and people found within it. “There is a new energy in agriculture,” he said. “It’s a passion and community that is unmatched in any other industry. Everyone is so genuine, friendly, and supportive of each other. It’s always been about community and uniting around a common goal of taking care of the land and feeding people.”

For aspiring young agricultural leaders, Miles recommends educating yourself on the industry, getting involved and figuring out where your talents and interests lie. “Always remember that your entry point into agriculture may not come the way that you think it will,” he said. “Be open to all opportunities and possibilities. Find what speaks to you. Get involved with organizations that will not only educate you about various parts of the industry, but will also give you hands-on experience, like FFA, Jr. MANRRS, 4H, community gardens, farms, etc.” We are excited to have Miles as part of our agriculture family and look forward to seeing where the industry takes him as an educator and leader of our state’s number one industry!