JaQuay Butler

How Working in Agriculture Led Me to Public Health

As I sit and reflect on my journey from high school and where I am now, I must give thanks to the opportunity that helped get me here.

I am a first-generation college student of low-socioeconomic status. I am from a large urban area, where you have to drive 20-30 minutes to reach farmland. I had never been to a farm, never heard the difference between organic and conventional agriculture - nor did I know what it meant. I still remember the time Karen (my mentor) tried to get me to eat authentic peanut butter. I had never seen it before and was shocked that she wanted me to eat it. I was completely grossed out. But once I finally tried it I was hooked and did not want to go back to eating “regular” peanut butter.

As a freshman at Grant Union High School, I was introduced to the environmental science academy which I joined my sophomore year. I also worked in the GEO Garden at Grant and learned how to create healthy and sustainable communities. I received outdoor learning and hands-on experiences in areas such as environmental horticulture, landscape architectural design, and “green” business. The green business opportunity was EAT, a student run salsa business. In this class, we learned how to manage a business and took field trips to the local tomato farm, processor and bottler; which allowed us to see our product from beginning stages to final stages. Through this program, I was connected to the Center for Land-Based Learning (CLBL). I participated in their programs for three years.

The first program I volunteered in was the Student and Landowner Education and Watershed Stewardship (SLEWS). During this time, I learned a lot about habitat restoration, natural resources and agriculture; and about myself. I developed a passion for the environment. My participation in SLEWS led to my interest in the Farming, Agriculture and Resource Management for Sustainability leadership program (FARMS). FARMS taught me about sustainability and most importantly nutrition. We were always provided with healthy food choices that really changed the way I viewed my own unhealthy eating behaviors. This program taught me the importance of sustainability, and understanding the relationship between agriculture and the environment. The Growing Green Internship was the last program in which I participated. It allowed me to gain valuable volunteering and work experience. Moreover, it helped shape me into the person I am today, not afraid to work hard to achieve my goals. The program is built around the four pillars of career exploration, paid work experience, community service, and college mentoring - all with a focus on agriculture, sustainable energy, and environmental science fields. Before I started the program, I had to earn 100 hours of community services and be accountable for my effort in succeeding and accomplishing goals set for me. Then, during the summer we worked on a variety of projects that helped me gain valuable work experience. This was beneficial, because up until that point I had no previous work experience. I could add this to my resume which facilitated my acceptance into college, get my first job while in school, and provided my first leadership position on campus.

JaQuay Butler
JaQuay Butler
JaQuay Butler
Alumna of several of Center for Land-Based Learning’s programs. Currently finishing her last semester of a Master’s in Public Health program at Indiana University, Bloomington.

The knowledge and skills I gained gave me the courage to study abroad, when no one in my family had ever left the country. It inspired me to go out of state for graduate school, leaving everything familiar behind, to go to a place where I knew no one. These experiences taught me the importance of investing in myself, the value of agriculture, hard work and the importance of stepping outside of your comfort zone.

If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would soon be graduating with a master’s degree in public health, I would have laughed at you. If you don’t know what public health is, public health is the science and art of preventing disease, promotion of health of people and the communities where they live, learn and work. As a public health professional, I work to improve the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. I can connect agriculture to public health, though they seem like completely different fields. This is because the dietary guidelines of public health cannot be met without focusing on sustainable agriculture and food production. Agriculture is essential for good health. It produces the world’s food, fiber and materials for shelter; and in many countries, it is also an important source of livelihood.

Graduation Day at Sonoma State University
Graduation Day at Sonoma State University
Graduation Day at Sonoma State University

I am excited to use the knowledge I gained in agriculture and incorporate it into my public health work. I will graduate in May 2018, and I have already begun searching for methods in which I can incorporate it into my future work. Agriculture has gotten me far in life, and has opened a lot of doors for me. I would not be where I am today; if it was not for the work I did in high school. I never realized how broad the field was until I began working at CLBL. There is so much you can do, and I am thrilled to see where it takes me next.

First Day of Orientation at IU School of Public Health
First Day of Orientation at IU School of Public Health
First Day of Orientation at IU School of Public Health

The West Sacramento Bayer Crop Science site has been a long supporter of the Center for Land-Based Learning, an organization that cultivates opportunity for youth, for agriculture, for business, for the environment with the focus on growing new farmers, workforce development, and exposing high school students to agriculture. We are proud to feature Ms. Butler, her experience and success in these tremendous programs.
If you are considering a career in science, check our website https://www.career.bayer.com/en/career/

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Sinead Duffy
February 10, 2018 - 08:51 AM

Great article as we celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science!

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Sinead Duffy
February 10, 2018 - 08:51 AM

Great article as we celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science!

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Thriving for Change - Championing Agriculture for a New Generation