The World Food Prize Foundation

The Borlaug Blog

In the Eyes of the Children

By Randy Renze
World Food Prize Hall of Laureates Docent

The real pleasure of being a World Food Prize Hall of Laureates docent is seeing the eyes of a student, big or small – old or young, light up as one piece of the Hall’s story energizes their thoughts, lighting up their imagination on what their future might hold and what they could become.  Delivering tours to guests of all ages is the mainstay for docents of the WFP Hall of Laureates. Interacting with the many students who take part in these tours is among the best experiences.

The real challenge is to engage students in a manner that allows them to see the endeavors of Norman E. Borlaug, past laureates and history’s great agriculturalist in ways that they might emulate. Borlaug found his passion in 1937 in no small part due to his serendipitous attendance of a lecture, “The Little Enemies that Destroy our Crops”, by Dr. Elvin Stakman, a renowned plant pathologist to which he became an understudy. That lecture exposed his deeply held convictions to defeat plant diseases as a pathway to resolve hunger and poverty; both of which he experienced in his youth. Borlaug’s awakening came through his university experience – today’s youth have an opportunity to do the same through the stories of the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates. Each area within the Hall of Laureates holds its own stories that can amaze and inspire our youth.

The larger story of the Borlaug Ballroom in the Hall of Laureates is of Borlaug’s life and honors; including his wheat breeding work in Mexico, introduction of the Green Revolution to Africa and the Nobel Peace Prize for his life saving efforts in Pakistan and India. However, the importance of the ornamental bowls on display in the ballroom to an aspiring youth cannot be overstated. The bowls depict the areas of endeavor for which the World Food Prize is bestowed. It’s truly exciting to see the student’s eyes light up when the students find the one bowl that peaks their interest and shout out their find.

The Ruan Laureates Room offers all a look at agriculture’s history and its laureates. Twenty-one ancestors with great accomplishments are listed in the squinches above the windows. When the names of these heroes are brought together with their accomplishments in the History of Agriculture Timeline, on the garden level students have the opportunity to comprehend and envision their accomplishments. Da Yu is an important figure in Chinese history. How important, is hard for an Iowan like me to comprehend, but the 23rd century BCE emperor known for his work with irrigation brought excitement to a group of young Chinese. Their excitement at his mention was immediate and created many “selfie” pictures with his timeline image and accomplishments.

In the Laureate Alcove, mention of a few key accomplishments of one of the 46 depicted laureates can turn blank stares into understanding, motivated smiles. A big grin told the whole story for a young woman with an interest in science when she learned that Evangelina Villegas started working for Norman Borlaug in Chapingo, Mexico as a youth and later became the first female World Food Prize Laureate for developing Quality Protein Maize as a scientist.  Likewise, the interest of two proclaimed techies quickly peaked with the understanding that Akinwumi Adesina received his 2017 award in part for the introduction of the e-wallet system to Nigerian farmers.

It’s exciting see the inspiration in the faces of those that visited the Hall of Laureates. Their passion, like Borlaug’s at the Stakman lecture, may someday translate into studies and careers that allow them to populate the organizations that will collectively solve the challenges of our growing populations.

Through the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates and Youth Programs envisioned and brought into being through the efforts of Norman E. Borlaug, John Ruan and Ambassador Ken Quinn, students are provided the opportunities and pathways to become the next Borlaug, Evangelina Villegas or Akinwumi Adesina. None of this would be possible today without the vision and commitment of these three founders. For a docent, having the opportunity to participate in a small part of this effort, offers its own rewards. 

03/12/2018 8:00 AM |Add a comment |Comments (2)
So very well said, Randy. It is a privilege for me to be your fellow docent.

Ellen Strachota | | | 03/13/2018 8:12 AM
Randy, This is a well written piece that highlights the importance of visiting the Hall of Laureates. Students are enlightened when you give them information and walk away thinking about what they can do to alleviate food insecurity. Well done.

Jody Beimer | | 03/12/2018 3:04 PM
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