Western innovator: Essays win world's attention
Student can help bridge gap between farmers, consumers
By SEAN ELLIS
MERIDIAN, Idaho -- Two essays that Rocky Mountain High School student Quinn Inwards wrote this summer about farming helped propel the city boy with no agricultural background onto one of the industry's grandest stages.
When he started taking ag-related classes his sophomore year, Inwards had no direct farming background and little knowledge about agriculture.
Now an 18-year-old senior, Inwards has become an advocate for production agriculture and is proof of why it's so important to educate people about farming, said Shane Stevenson, the school's FFA adviser.
An essay Inwards wrote this summer earned him $250 and second place in a national contest centered on how farmers can feed a growing world population. His essay argued that genetically modified crops, fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals are necessary to feed the global population.
He followed that with another essay on how to extend the shelf life of food in Niger and allow farmers in that country to move from subsistence to for-profit farming.
That essay resulted in his becoming the first Idaho student to be invited to the World Food Prize in Iowa, which recognizes contributions from any field that feed a hungry world.
Stevenson said Inwards is a prime example of why it's so important to continue trying to educate people about agriculture.
"I believe it's important that we find nontraditional advocates for agriculture; people that have a rapport with some of the audiences we're trying to reach," he said. "Those are some of the most powerful people we can bring in to agricultural leadership and the agricultural sector.
"People like him help bridge a gap between people in production agriculture and the consumers who are not linked to production agriculture."
Inwards said the highlight of his three-day stay in Iowa Oct. 18-20 was when he was able to present his paper to a panel of experts.
In his essay, Inwards discussed the amount of food that is wasted in Niger and demonstrated that using basic technologies to extend the shelf life of farm commodities there would allow farmers to feed their families and have enough food left over to sell for profit.
During his stay in Iowa, Inwards and other students from around the country interacted with about 1,000 global leaders in agriculture and toured cutting-edge research and industrial facilities.
Inwards, who is interested in plant and soil science and animal science, said the experience showed him how many career opportunities are connected to agriculture.
"I wouldn't say I was clueless before, but it's definitely opened up a lot of opportunities for me that I wouldn't have even thought about before," he said.
He also said he was shocked to learn how many people go hungry.
"It was eye-opening as to how many people go without food every day," Inwards said. "I want to stay involved in agriculture and do something to try to make a difference."
School: Rocky Mountain High School
Career interests: Plant and soil science and animal science
A collection of 2011’s Western innovators is available on Amazon’s Kindle. Take a look at “Western Innovators: Profiles of 42 agricultural leaders who shaped the West in 2011” at http://amzn.to/WesternInnovators