Jacob David Blank has a diversified background in agriculture and is an advocate for the industry
As a freshman at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo., with a double major in animal science and agricultural education, as well as a minor in ag economics, Jacob David Blank of rural Camden County outside Richland, Mo., is a busy young man. Outside of his formal education, his most recent projects have included two different jobs, both centered around service with horses, one at Fort Leonard Wood through the division of Morale, Welfare, and Recreation and the other with the Just Country Quarter Horse Ranch of Richland. Now that combination has brought national recognition to the 2017 Richland High School graduate as a finalist for an FFA Proficiency Award in Outdoor Recreation.
Each year, the National FFA Organization chooses four finalists in each of 47 Proficiency Program Areas. Jacob was one of the 2017 finalists for the award in Outdoor Recreation. He and the other finalists were recognized on stage at the 90th National FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis in late October.
While David wasn’t the national winner, he was selected as the state winner by the Missouri FFA Association in April.
“I work at the Lake of the Ozarks State Park with the Fort Leonard Wood program,” Jacob explained. “There are so many different areas involved in outdoor recreation like golf courses, dirt bikes etc., but mine is directly involved in agriculture with a state park. Then because of the state park involvement there are lots of other activities that are also included such as maintenance of the lake front beach, campgrounds and cabins. I work there in the summer and well into the fall and early winter on weekends.
“It is truly a remarkable experience, getting to work with the members of the military, the veterans and their families and to get to hear their stories and their experiences. It’s a wonderful chance for me to be there when their families gather, for weddings and family reunions, and just to have some quality family time, away from the harsh reality they so often deal with.”
Meanwhile, in his other position, Jacob sees a different side of life with horses.
“At the JCQH Ranch, I work with about 20 students a year. This includes everything from teaching horsemanship, therapeutic riding, and training horses from all over the nation. The ranch is in the process right now of moving to a new location in Stoutland, Mo., that offers an indoor arena, more stalls, and a nicer all round facility. A lot of my youth work at the ranch involves working with youth who have social or psychological disabilities as well as those who would not normally have access to horses or horseback riding.”
Jacob is making his own plans for the future, and has contemplated both a career as a veterinarian and as an agriculture teacher. It is clear that his work experiences as well as his educational encounters have had a profound effect on his future considerations.
“I’m really leaning toward becoming an ag teacher,” he continued. “FFA advisors like Shane Kardosz, my Richland ag teacher, have had an incredible impact on me. I also think we need more agriculture advocacy in America right now. The theory is that by 2050, there will be 9 billion people in the world which is going to take a 70 percent increase in food production to feed them all. Most of our farmers are aging so who is going to fill this need? I would love to be an ag teacher in a rural area like Richland or Stoutland. I would be willing to work in a multi-teacher program or even begin a new ag program in one of the schools where agriculture advocacy is now missing altogether.”
Jacob lives with his parents, Lora Blank and James Garner on 5 acres, adjacent to his grandparents, Jim and Mary Nunley, and their 80 acre farm.
“In the summer, we have rabbits, chickens, turkeys, sheep and hogs for the county fair, as well as a big garden and our own egg production operation. We are close to 50 percent self-sustaining on our own food during that time. We also have horses and pygmy goats.”
Jacob has two Quarter Horses of his own, 12-year-old Buddy and Lucky, age 6, who was born on Jacob’s birthday. He has shown and competed in reining and showmanship in the past.
“At one time, my grandparents had up to 32 horses here. They are a big reason why I’ve chosen to stay in agriculture,” he concluded with a smile.
Whatever career path Jacob Blank chooses, it will be no surprise if this is only his first of many appearances to come in America’s future in agriculture.