During my two-hour drive from Birmingham to Auburn, AL, for this issue’s cover story, “Auburn’s New Feed Mill Comes to Roost,” I tried to run through my questions for Dr. Don Conner, the head of the university’s poultry science department, and Mitchell Pate, director of the poultry research unit, but, as it often does, my mind began to wander. I began to think about what the new mill must mean for the program; about the students, how exciting it must be to be greeted by an immaculate, brand-new, state-of-the-art feed mill the first day of the fall 2012 semester.
Personally, the purchase of new school supplies was always enough to get me invigorated for the coming school year, but consider how motivating the new facility and it’s message is to Auburn students: “The poultry industry needs you; and this facility represents its investment in you and your future.”
In a time when the majority of graduates in many disciplines are simply hoping to find any work in their chosen field, the kids in Auburn Agriculture’s graduate and undergraduate programs know they are a valuable commodity with the erection of the Poultry & Animal Nutrition Center. To date, the department has raised 40% of the cost of the mill with industry and stakeholder donations; it hopes to raise the additional 60% over the next four years. Within the modular feed mill, the supplier community donated over $750,000 worth of equipment.
You see, the poultry and feed industries get it: You need to invest in the next generation in order to reap the benefits.
In this month’s Manager’s Notebook, “How to Recruit Tomorrow’s Managers,” Drs. Jay Akridge and John Foltz cite that by 2015 there will annually be 54,400 jobs for individuals in the agricultural sciences. (Source: USDA)
Behind Georgia and Arkansas, Alabama ranks third in poultry production — and Auburn University is located in the heart of the “Broiler Belt.” According to Dr. Conner, in the Southeast, the demand for skilled employees is high — and rising.
The thing is, Auburn Agriculture isn’t just about churning out the industry’s future CEOs and VPs (though that certainly is the goal), it’s mission is to provide a solid education at any level. Consequently, Auburn plans to utilize the mill for continuing education and training programs for individuals already working in the field.
Dr. Conner and his department urge anyone interested in the feed mill to stop in for a tour, stressing that this isn’t only Auburn’s feed mill; it belongs to the collective industry as it plans for a profitable future.