ANSC Alumni Arrive in Liberia to Teach Agriculture
What did you study at UMD, and when did you graduate?
Anna Glenn (McGucken) attended UMD College of AGNR from 2008-2012 and dual-degreed in Animal Science and Agricultural Science and Technology. While at UMD, Anna was an active member of AGNR student council, Sigma Alpha Professional Sorority, Block and Bridle, and Cru.
Nathan Glenn attended UMD College of AGNR from 2007-2012 and double-majored in Animal Sciences and Secondary Education. While at UMD, Nathan Glenn was an active member of Alpha Gamma Rho agricultural fraternity, and the dairy judging team.Nathan and Anna met through classes and their involvement with clubs in the College of AGNR.
After graduation where did you both go? What are you doing now?
After graduation, Anna moved to College Station, Texas where she attended Texas A&M University and pursued a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications with a focus on international agricultural development. After moving back to Maryland in 2014, Nathan and Anna Glenn were married. Anna now works for University of Maryland Extension as a Horticulture Faculty Extension Assistant which entails many different responsibilities such as doing educational outreach at schools, community events, and fairs, helping clientele with recommendations for diseases/fertilization for their gardens, and coordinating a group of 175 volunteers called the Master Gardeners whose mission is to educate residents of Baltimore County of safe, effective, and sustainable horticultural practices.
After graduation, Nathan was offered a job at Clear Spring High School as an agriculture teacher and FFA advisor. While at Clear Spring he taught classes such as horticulture science, greenhouse management, pre-vet science, biotechnology, small and large animal management, etc. After Anna and Nathan were married, they moved to Harford County where Nathan accepted a position as the Animal Science teacher in North Harford High School’s Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences Magnet program. For the past two years he has been teaching classes such as foundations of agricultural, animal anatomy and physiology, animal management science, helping to manage the campus farm, as well as coaching/mentoring students with their SAE’s (supervised agricultural experiences), FFA judging teams, and senior capstone research projects.
What is Agricorps? Where will you each be? Will you be able to keep in touch or see each other?
AgriCorps is a PeaceCorps type organization that takes American college graduates of agriculture and places them in developing countries to teach agricultural education in schools and local communities.. Their mission is to “connect American agriculture volunteers to the demand for experiential, school-based agricultural education in developing countries” and to accomplish this they will help to create opportunities for increased agricultural education during and after school through experiential learning associated with 4-H and FFA models. Currently, the organization works in Ghana and Liberia though they are hoping to expand in the future. Nathan and Anna Glenn have been placed in Kakata, Liberia at the Booker Washington Institute (a vocational high school). Some of their responsibilities will include teaching agricultural classes, teaching classes on educational pedagogy, supporting the local 4-H clubs, helping to supervise the FFA programs, conducting farmer trainings, and supporting agricultural entrepreneurship and life skills development. They will work on projects independently as well as engage in many joint projects, a new opportunity for which they are excited!
Have you ever traveled abroad before?
Anna’s first international experience was in 2007 when she traveled to Belize with her church youth group. It was on this trip that she discovered her love of traveling, exploring new countries, immersing herself in other cultures, and agricultural development. In 2009 she traveled to Bahamas another mission trip where she worked in on repairing homes for a community of intellectually and physically disabled citizens. In 2011, she travelled to Botswana for 5 weeks where she worked in an orphanage and doing other community development work in the capital Gaborone. During her Masters studies, Anna travelled to Haiti for 2 weeks and worked with small-scale rabbit farmers on improving production practices and she worked in Guatemala for 2 months with elementary school students in teaching agricultural science and life skills through a 4-H curriculum. Recently, in January-February 2016 Anna travelled to Tanzania with the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer program where she worked with rural farmers in teaching good agricultural practices in order to help them increase their horticultural yields.
Nathan, though not having done as much international travel as Anna, has learned a lot about the need for improved agricultural education and youth development programs in developing countries and is excited to take this next step and use his skills and passion for agriculture internationally.
How'd you go about telling your current supervisors about it? How did they react?
Both Nathan and Anna’s supervisors were disappointed to see them go, but at the same time happy for them as they took this next step in pursuing their dreams of living and working abroad. Both communities in which they work have been extremely supportive of their decision and so Nathan and Anna are hoping maintain close relationships through emails and blog updates with these community members while abroad.
What is your biggest fear going into this trip?
Nathan and Anna say they aren’t afraid. They are ready to start their journey!
What do you hope to accomplish?
We hope to be able to come alongside our new community and work with them to address their needs for higher agricultural education classes as well as training in educational pedagogy, experiential learning, and youth development. We also hope to use our experience in agricultural education (both as teachers and as learners) in order to help strengthen the existing 4-H and FFA programs within the community. These programs have done so much for youth in the US and many other countries abroad so we hope that they will have the same impacts in Liberia. By helping to support the youth, we will be helping to support the future of the agricultural industry and thus the overall outlook for food security in Liberia.
How different are agricultural practices in Liberia?
Liberia’s unique climate and poor economy make their agriculture practices vastly different. Liberia has a wet season and a dry season, and most of their crops are grown during the wet season, in almost tropical rainforest- like conditions. Their top food crops are rice and cassava (a root crop much like sweet potatoes). The overwhelming majority of Liberians practice subsistence farming, which means they are farming to stay alive by feeding themselves and their family, but not necessarily to profit. The primary production system is slash-and-burn farming, where forest lands are cleared, burned and upland rice is cropped together with other crops. In subsistence agriculture, slash-and-burn typically uses very little technology.
What advice can you give to students and other alumni that may be considering Agricorps or other similar programs, but are not ready to make the commitment?
Do it! Now is the perfect time in your life to have this adventure. Traveling changes you in so many ways! It challenges you, it forces you out of your comfort zone, it helps you to find your own inner strength, it gives you a new outlook and perspective on life, it helps you to experience new cultures, food, language, and sights, and it is a great way to make new friends. Don’t just do it because it will look good on your resume, do it because you truly want to grow as a person, get outside of your box, and connect with the world.