Discovering the Future of Agriculture

High school students from across the country attend three-week AgDiscovery program at the University of Maryland.

Image Credit: Kenneth Ingram

August 6, 2012 By Sara Gavin

Sixteen of the country’s brightest and most motivated high schoolers spent three weeks this summer with the University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR), discovering the breadth of career opportunities available within the field of agriculture.

The AgDiscovery program is funded through a partnership between the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and 16 universities across the United States, including Maryland. This year students from as far away as Iowa and Nevada came to College Park to benefit from the university’s proximity to state and federal agencies, internationally renowned research labs and Congressional leaders. During their three week program, AgDiscovery students visited the Port of Baltimore, several USDA facilities including the National Agricultural Library, the APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine Facility, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Brookside Gardens, the National Zoo, Dupont research labs in Wilmington, Del., and the offices of Sen. Ben Cardin.

One of AgDiscovery’s main goals is to expose students to professions they might not typically associate with agriculture. They learn about people who study bacteria and viruses (biotechnologists), examine cells and tissues to identify diseases (plant pathologists), work to conserve wild animal habitats (wildlife biologists), provide education on the humane care and treatment of animals (veterinarians and animal care inspectors), and many more. Faculty members from Maryland’s College of AGNR helped to highlight the important advances in their specific fields as well as some of the exciting work current students are doing in the classroom.

“It’s not all plows and cows, as they say,” said Kenneth Ingram, a professor with Maryland AGNR’s Institute of Applied Agriculture, who served as the instructor for AgDiscovery 2012. “It’s really high-tech stuff. There are a lot of opportunities in some high-tech fields.”

Participants of the University of Maryland’s AgDiscovery program also receive three hours of university-level course credits through the Young Scholars Program. For students like Mark Gee of Johnston, Iowa, coming to Maryland was the experience of a lifetime. Gee, who will be a high school senior in the fall, says he’s fascinated by all aspects of the food production system in America.

“I’m just trying to figure out how this whole thing works,” Gee said. “I really loved it,” he said of the AgDiscovery program at Maryland.

Meanwhile, Lauren and Eddie Lichliter of Alexandria, VA are hoping their granddaughter, Scheyenne Eller, will continue to pursue her interest in becoming a veterinarian beyond the AgDiscovery program and that she will do so at the University of Maryland.

“I think this is a wonderful opportunity for the young people,” Lauren Lichliter said. “We really hope she goes to school here,” said Eddie Lichliter.

Dr. Cheng-i Wei, Dean of Maryland’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, echoed that same sentiment to students during the closing ceremonies of AgDiscovery this year. Dean Wei encouraged the young scholars to strongly consider the University of Maryland when evaluating colleges, and to become part of the next generation of leaders in the ever-evolving world of agriculture.

“That is of critical importance for the future,” Dean Wei said. “There are plenty of opportunities for you here.”
Maryland’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources has participated in seven out of the 12 years AgDiscovery has been in existence.

For more information on the AgDiscovery program, visit For information on the University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, contact Sara Gavin at 301-405-9235 or