Host Aaron Alejandro and John Howley agree that agricultural communication creates opportunity
The National FFA Organization works to strengthen science and agricultural educational opportunities for students across the country. The Texas FFA Association and Texas FFA Foundation are the largest state organizations in the country.
On this episode of the Growing Our Future Podcast, Aaron Alejandro introduces John Howley, Director of Communications for Montana State University Extension. Born and raised in Texas, Howley’s experience as a county Extension agent and a farm to school specialist in Utah, Indiana, and Montana gives him a unique perspective on agriculture and communication.
Extension: Forging Connections
John Howley, Director of Communications for Montana State University Extension, is grateful for teamwork, especially during a whirlwind first month on the job. Though challenges arise–for example, Howley says, “a news story comes out that doesn’t quite represent extension the way we want it to”–the incredible impact Extension has on communities outweighs any potential negativity.
Looking outside of Texas has given Howley new perspective and opportunity. Before he landed the job at Montana State University, Howley worked with “farmers, agriculturists, and teachers” as a County Extension Agent and Farm to School Specialist with Purdue University Extension in Indiana. Alejandro admires Howley’s drive. “Everywhere you go there’s an opportunity to learn something,” he says.
Support from FFA
Unlike many of his peers, Howley didn’t have direct access to agriculture as a kid. But he does remember being fascinated by it from a young age. Howley’s little league field happened to be next to the local high school’s FFA facilities, which Howley remembers as his first exposure to the organization. “I’d walk over from the ball fields and watch the kids shear their sheep”, he says. Howley was eventually able to join his high school’s FFA chapter, where he was supported by great teachers who welcomed him unconditionally. “They didn’t care that I wasn’t a cattle guy,” he remembers.
For Howley, the leadership skills he learned in FFA had the most direct impact on his career path. Parliamentary Procedure, public speaking, and learning to face adversity along with team members in what he calls a “very competitive district” launched a successful four-year stint at Texas Tech, where Howley was able to combine his two passions–agriculture and journalism–as he pursued a degree in agricultural communication.
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“Mind-blowing” Opportunities in Agriculture
Howley urges young people aspiring to careers in agriculture to keep an open mind when it comes to career options. While there are myriad agriculture jobs in the state of Texas, “you just never know where your opportunities may be”, Howley says.
Though one of Howley’s core values is hard work, he is also committed to a healthy work-life balance. For example, Howley was able to be present for the birth of his daughter while working at Purdue. As Director of Communications at Montana State Extension, he cultivates a similarly flexible and supportive work environment.
Howley’s advice for FFA students with career goals? “Give Montana State Extension a call, we’d love to have you.”
The Texas FFA Foundation’s purpose is to strengthen agricultural education and the Texas FFA program, so each student can develop their potential for personal growth, career success and leadership in a global marketplace..
Learn more about the Texas FFA Foundation at mytexassffa.org.
Learn more about Montana State University Extension at msuextention.org.