OK, I have to confess that sometimes things slip through the cracks. (You, being far more efficient and organized than I, doubtless never have such a problem.)

So, herewith my attempt to correct one such slip: giving a plug to the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity.

In case you aren't familiar with AGR (and I confess I wasn't), it's the fraternity for agriculture students and professionals, with chapters at most U.S. land grant universities and thousands of members worldwide.

From secretaries of agriculture, to top agribusiness management, to presidents of food companies, to thousands of farmers and ranchers, AGR alumni are a virtual “Who's Who” in worldwide agriculture.

AGR isn't just for farm boys. Membership is open to those preparing for any agriculture or food-related career, including food science, biotechnology, agri-marketing, environmental science, landscape architecture, veterinary science, fisheries/wildlife, and many other agriculture, food, and fiber fields.

In the Mid-South, there are chapters at Mississippi State University; University of Arkansas-Fayetteville and Arkansas State University-Jonesboro; University of Tennessee-Knoxville, UT-Martin, Middle Tennessee State University-Murfreesboro, and Austin-Peay State University, Clarksville, Tenn.; and Louisiana State University-Baton Rouge.

Bob Sayle, Lake Cormorant, Miss., called my attention to AGR. “This fraternity was a good influence on me,” he says of the Mississippi State University chapter, “and I'd hate for others to miss out on it because they don't know about it. By providing stability and encouragement at a crucial time in my life, it helped me get through school and graduate.

“I was away from home, on my own for the first time, and the friendships, fellowship, and concern I found in AGR was comforting. Having a house mother and eating meals together helped form strong relationships. When people talked about an unsettled future for jobs in production agriculture, fraternity members helped me to keep focused on my goal. Holding leadership positions and attending national seminars exposed me to new ideas and helped to build personal skills.”

AGR's mission is to keep members focused on why they're in college in the first place — to graduate and get a job, which requires a dedication to academic achievement. “Because everyone in AGR is in the same sector, it's easy to have peer study groups or to find someone who has taken the same classes,” Sayle says. Most chapters have computers and libraries to help provide a good atmosphere for studying and research. Since the Mississippi State chapter started in 1991, it has consistently been high in the overall fraternity scholarship rankings.

AGR will be observing its 100th anniversary in 2004, with special events planned at chapters nationwide, and a big national convention Aug. 15-18 at Columbus, Ohio.

The organization, through its educational foundation offers scholarships and grants, and chapters carry out many charitable and/or community service projects each year. The Mississippi State University chapter, for example, will be holding a Spring Sensation Walking and Racking Horse Show at the new campus Agricenter next March.

“I hope every student in an ag-related field will look at AGR membership,” Sayle says.


e-mail: hbrandon@primediabusiness.com