The Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology
Agricultural Education Student Spotlight: Brendan Black
Agricultural education senior Brendan Black has taken his passion for agricultural advocacy to a new level by starting his own podcast, Talk Ag to Me, more than four years ago.
The Tulare area native has now recorded over 120 episodes where he has explored a myriad of industry topics tied to production practices, animal welfare, consumer education, economics, entertainment, health, history, media, science, technology, urbanization and so many other parts of our society.
His communications background also includes work as a journalist for AgNet West and writing ag education stories for its daily show.
Our California Farm Bureau discussion team has channeled his quest for knowledge where was a finalist at the state contest this past year (and helping it win its fourth straight team title). He has served other students as a campus farm tour host and mentor for speaking and knowledge bowl competitions.
Learn about his background and what's ahead in this recent interview.
Q: Why did you choose to attend Fresno State, how did you choose your major, and when do you plan on graduating?
Black: “I learned, through research, that Fresno State has the best agriculture education program in California. I’ve wanted to be an agriculture teacher since I was a junior in high school, and Fresno State was the most ideal option for me to pursue this path. I’ve developed a stronger passion for teaching others over the course of my college experience and Fresno State has provided the necessary pathway for me to actualize my career aspirations after I graduate in the Fall of 2022.”
Q: What do you consider your hometown?
Black: “My hometown is Tulare, California. I was born in Visalia and grew up in the Tulare/Tipton area. Until moving to Fresno for school, I had never lived outside of Tulare. It’s a very small community, but it’s tight-knit and it’s home.”
Q: Did you have any other family members that are Fresno State graduates?
Black: “My sister-in-law, Brittany Black (was Brittany Guevara), graduated with a degree in Agricultural Business. Other than that, I am the first member of my family to attend a four-year university”
Q: What was your background in agriculture before you started at Fresno State?
Black: “I grew up in the agricultural community of Tulare. While my family didn’t own any land, we’ve worked on various agricultural operations our entire lives. My dad runs a pest-control business for the dairies in the area, my sister trains horses, and my brother runs a trucking company for commodities. I was involved in FFA in high school and this was my first real exposure to the agriculture industry as I didn’t get involved in it much when I was younger. My exposure and experience only grew as I progressed through high school and community college into my current position. I didn’t have the farm life that some of my peers may have had, but to say I didn’t grow up around or in agriculture would be a lie.”
Q: What units have you worked with on the campus farm, and how has it prepared you for your career path?
Black: “I have worked as a student associate for the Gibson Farm Market, and I currently work as a farm tour guide for elementary school students. Both of these jobs gave me practical experience in working with the general public and teaching them about agriculture in different capacities. The farm tour job has been especially helpful in that regard, as my entire job is education-based.”
Q: Which classes & faculty members had the biggest influence on you?
Black: “While attending Fresno State, Dr. Steven Rocca has had a major influence on my educational career. He has helped me realize just why I want to be a teacher, and he’s opened so many doors for me as I’ve progressed in my life. He’s one of the largest reasons I decided to attend Fresno State in the first place."
Black: "Mr. Chris McKenna also had a large role in my life at Fresno State as he was my first Agriculture Mechanics teacher. Ag Mechanics is a subject I’m not very comfortable with, and he did a good job of introducing me to the subject and helping me grow more comfortable without being harsh on me for not understanding the concepts. He’s provided a lot of advice outside the classroom and has provided me with confidence and knowledge that I, otherwise, wouldn’t have had."
Black: "Ms. Jesse Bower is a recent addition to the list of professors that have influenced me during my time here. She has been very welcoming and supportive of my progress towards teaching, and she’s been an appreciated resource that has offered helpful advice and provided insight into my future career, solidifying my decisions.”
Q: Have you been a part of any other clubs or organizations at Fresno State & involved in any noteworthy activities or competitions?
Black: “I am currently the President of the Agriculture Education and Communications Club and I was involved in the Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers’ Discussion Meet Competition. I ended up finishing the competition as a finalist and competed against very powerful speakers as we debated solutions to agricultural issues. Dr. Rocca coached this team and three of our four members made it to the finals.”
Q: Have you participated in any other outreach activities/events that benefited the community?
Black: “I am one of the Fresno State Ag Ambassadors. As part of this team, I work with others in my team to help with a variety of events that benefit the community. I recently helped run the Knowledge Bowl for the Collegiate Agricultural Leaders Speaking Competition in Modesto, California, and I’m currently on the workshop committee helping prepare for the Ag Ambassadors State Conference coming up soon.”
Q: Have you traveled to any conferences and made any presentations?
Black: “I enjoyed going to Sacramento to help run the Fresno State Education Booth at the California State FFA Leadership Conference.”
Q: Have you had any other part-time jobs or internships while at Fresno State?
Black: “I’m a journalist intern for AgNet West, and my job consists of writing stories for my own agriculture education segment on their radio show and website. This has benefitted my professional development as it has helped me understand different aspects of the industry in more depth, create stronger connections with individuals in the agriculture education community, become comfortable with the news story writing format, and learn more about the industry that I will be working in. I developed skills in interviewing, scheduling, networking, writing stories, prioritizing information, and understanding the news process.”
Q: Have you overcome any challenges to get where you are today that have shaped who you are?
Black: “I have overcome a variety of challenges to reach the point where I’m at. One of the earliest challenges was in high school when I was faced with the choice of staying quiet and reserved or being pushed outside of my comfort zone and becoming a speaker and leader. I reluctantly chose the path of the leader and haven’t looked back since. Overcoming that anxiety taught me about resilience and about my potential. I overcame the challenge of college at my community college, where I was incredibly involved in my department. I overcame the challenge of moving away from my small community when I came to Fresno for school. While that took some time to overcome, I eventually persevered. One of the most difficult challenges has been learning to mature and be an adult while still being a student and balancing real-world life with student life. It’s one that I feel many struggle with and it takes a special understanding of the world to be able to overcome it.”
Q: Are there any other interesting notes about yourself that you would like to include?
Black: “I have a strong passion for public speaking and have been coaching public speakers since graduating high school. One of my favorite feelings is seeing a student get excited and passionate in their speeches and then realizing the potential they hold. It’s my primary motivator to be a teacher right now.”
Q: What's your potential next career step, and how do you plan to use your degree eventually?
Black: “After graduation in fall 2022 my ideal next career step would be to join the credential program, complete my student teaching, obtain my credential, and start teaching agriculture at a high school that will allow me to grow with my students and department. There’s a possibility that I pursue a position as a community college professor at some point in the future, but that isn’t in my immediate plans at this time. I plan to use my degree outside of the classroom, as well, working with organizations and on personal projects to expand agriculture education to the general public on multiple levels.”
Black: "I am also working on a project to get major ag education and literacy organizations to come together to strategize and develop more effective methods of communicating with the public about agriculture."