Parker Byington has a very detailed plan for what he wants to do when he finishes his master’s degree in July.
“I grew up on a dairy farm,” said the Moses Lake native. “I learned the lifestyle and fell in love with it. My family sold the dairy herd years ago, but I’m going to get back into that business.”
In preparation, Byington earned a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University in business finance before coming to Washington State for a master’s in agriculture.
That background and dedication to agriculture helped him win a trip to Washington D.C. last month as part of the USDA’s Agriculture Outlook Forum Student Diversity Program.
Byington was one of 10 graduate students chosen from around the country, based on an essay he wrote for the competition. The theme all entrants wrote about was “The Greatest Challenge Facing Agriculture Over the Next Five Years.”
In his essay, Byington discussed the importance of consumer awareness, and how farmers can work with consumers to find common ground on things like animal welfare and technology in agriculture.
“In order to feed humanity, we have to implement every safe technology we have available,” he said. “We have to be more sustainable, with less input of resources and more output for feeding people.”
The highlight of the forum was being on a panel of fellow students who got to talk to Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture under President Obama.
“He asked us about our essays and had follow-up questions,” Byington said. “He counseled us to be advocates for agriculture and to have an influence.”
The 25-year-old has already started looking at beginning farmer loans through the USDA. He was able to talk with professionals about his business plan at the forum, and they helped him refine his plans.
“The entire event was amazing,” Byington said. “I need to take the passion I have for agriculture and use that to inform friends, neighbors, and politicians. That’s what I’ll take away from it.”