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The Borlaug Blog

Inspired by the Legacy of Norman Borlaug and My Family Farm

By Hans Riensche
2017 Borlaug-Ruan International Intern and 2018 John Chrystal International Internship Award Recipie

Six generations ago my family moved from Berenbusch, Germany to a small farm near the town of Jubilee, Iowa, not far from the childhood home of Norman Borlaug. The legacy of my family over the last 150 years has inspired me to pursue a life in agriculture and to use my family farm as a tool to make an impact on hunger across the world.

During the fall of 2016, I attended the World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute and presented my paper focused on the need for improved agricultural education in Haiti. I researched tactics which I believed had the potential to reverse the tide of environmental degradation, but discovered there was much more depth to the issues. Over the day-long event, I got a taste of the true complexity of the issues at hand, but rather than becoming discouraged, I became intrigued by the work others were doing to solve the critical concerns from many angles. It was at this moment that deep down, something clicked.

That fall, I was honored to be a delegate to the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute in Des Moines, and to once again be surrounded by incredible students who were equally motivated to put an end to food insecurity. Throughout the conference, I held incredible conversations with World Food Prize Laureates and industry leaders, each having a unique focus, strategy and influence on the next step regarding global issues.

After graduating high school in 2017, I was selected as a World Food Prize Borlaug-Ruan International Intern and interned at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing. Over the summer I worked under Lab Director Xueyong Li in a rice research lab. Over the course of two months, I was able to work with and become friends with a powerful, diverse group of dedicated researchers from across the world, all searching for genes responsible for plant growth deficiencies. All were unified by their dreams of eradicating hunger in their homelands.

Living on the other side of the world was a fascinating and challenging experience. Having no background in Mandarin and only a high school understanding of biology, I faced a sharp learning curve. I embraced every opportunity provided to grow in my competencies and to learn from the other students of the lab. The experience taught me a tremendous amount about plant genetics, but perhaps even more importantly, it forced me to think critically about the culture and agriculture of my home community.

In August, I returned to the United States to attend Iowa State University where I am studying Agricultural Business and International Agriculture. During the summer of 2018, I followed Dr. Norman Borlaug’s footsteps into wheat breeding and product management as I worked for BASF at their facilities in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. In addition to working with HT wheat, I managed relations for a project focused on biofortified, Omega-3 synthesizing canola to be used in sustainable aquaculture systems with the intention of ending global overfishing.

The passion the World Food Prize has instilled in me and the experiences I’ve had through the organization have built a strong foundation for a future focused on developing solutions to the challenges agriculture faces now and tomorrow. These challenges will be global, but even in small communities we are able to make a large impact. The NASEM just released a report stating that even U.S. agriculture may “no longer be in a self-sustaining, steady state.” To reverse this trend, action must be taken now. This is why our family farm is actively seeking innovative on-farm research opportunities. For instance, we recently partnered with Indigo Ag to discover transferable and tailorable ways to boost productivity and crop nutrient value while remaining within a farmer’s budget.

As Dr. Borlaug has challenged us all, I feel fortunate to be in a position where I can make a difference in the future of agriculture. This I solely attribute to my involvement in the World Food Prize. I also credit the individuals who influenced me to become a part of this organization, to work towards achieving its noble purpose, and those who challenged me daily to act on my passion for food security. It was with a humble heart that I received the John Chrystal Award at this year’s Laureate Award Ceremony. Now, as I work the fields which surround Dr. Borlaug’s childhood home, I am inspired to spend my life working to end global hunger while preserving the resources and livelihoods of generations to come.

11/26/2018 8:00 AM |Add a comment |Comments (1)
It's such a pleasure to realize how you've been inspired by Dr. Borlaug. I also knew John Chrystal from Coon Rapids, and his nephew by the same name who attended ISU while I was there in the late 1970's. That family should inspire you, too! Thank you for the work you are doing.

Susan E Judkins | | | 11/26/2018 1:38 PM
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