Jayson Lusk, head of Purdue's Department of Agriculture Economics, received the prestigious CAST Award during the events surrounding the Word Food Prize ceremony.
By Mark Gee
I'm from Iowa, and when people discover I'm a proud Boilermaker they always ask, "How did you end up at Purdue?"
The answer starts with the World Food Prize when I was 10 years old.
I have always had an interest in plants, and agriculture is about the plants that help people. The first year I attended the World Food Prize was in 2006 because my dad took me and my brother to a public event to see Nobel Prize winner Norman Borlaug, a man who I was told had saved a billion lives by breeding high yielding wheat varieties that prevented a famine.
The efforts of Dr. Borlaug taught me how fundamental agriculture is helping people and I wanted to learn more. I also met Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, the President of the World Food Prize Foundation, who made it possible for me to keep going back to the World Food Prize Symposium. (above photo panel, far left).
The first time I heard about Purdue was in 2007 when the World Food Prize Laurate was Dr. Philip Nelson, a Purdue alumnus and professor, for his innovations in large-scale storage and transportation of fresh fruit and vegetables using bulk aseptic food processing.
I heard about Purdue again in 2008 when I met another Purdue alumnus and professor, Dr. Gebisa Ejeta. I was 12 years old and he took time to talk with me about agriculture and his research at Purdue. The next year, Dr. Ejeta was on stage as the laureate for developing hybrid sorghum varieties that were resistant to drought and a devastating weed called striga. After the ceremony, Dr. Ejeta made time to talk with me again and introduced me to his wife Senait and their children (above photo panel, second photo from left).
The World Food Prize offers many opportunities to help students learn about global food issues. As part of the Global Youth Institute, I had the opportunity to study and write about ways to improve food security in Costa Rica. In 2013, I was selected as a Borlaug-Ruan intern to the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation in India and spent two months researching how to help small-holder millet farmers adapt to climate volatility. I also had the opportunity to spend time with Dr. Swaminathan and other reseachers.
When I was a senior in high school, I met Jay Akridge, Purdue’s Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture, at the World Food Prize event. He convinced me that there really is something special going on in West Lafayette. So I visited the Purdue campus. One thing led to another and now I’m a senior at Purdue soon to complete a triple major in agronomy, biochemistry, and biological engineering. I hope to combine these areas and work with farmers to improve crop options, promote nutritional foods, and implement sustainable practices.
I was not surprised that another Purdue alumnus, Dr. Akin Adesina, was named the 2017 World Food Prize Laurate for building the political will to transform African agriculture through initiatives to expand agricultural production, thwart corruption in the Nigerian fertilizer industry, and exponentially increase the availability of credit for smallholder farmers across the African continent.
There is much to learn from the experts who have dedicated their lives to fighting hunger and malnutrition. Their stories inspire me, and I volunteer every year at the World Food Prize youth programs in Indiana to help spread the message to as many students as possible. I look up to the three World Food Prize laureates from Purdue and am proud to be a Boilermaker.