NAVASOTA, Tex (KBTX) - Art Courville is a dairy farmer. He's the last of his kind in Grimes County.
"It takes seven days a week, 365 days a year, even the extra day on leap year," Courville said. "There's not very many people that can do that."
The family farm is becoming less profitable. The farmer way of life is less attractive to many Americans. Still, people have to eat, and we expect more now from producers than ever.
"We're supposed to create food that makes people healthy. We're supposed to do it in a setting that has the smallest possible environmental footprint, such that our lands are preserved for future generations," said Dr Patrick Stover, the Vice Chancellor and Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M. "And we have to do this in a way so that it makes economic sense."
Stover thinks the economic component is the key to getting younger generations invested in agriculture. The answer could be in solving another problem.
"While hunger has been virtually eliminated, what we now see is a dramatic rise in diet-related chronic disease," Stover said. "It costs the U.S. economy almost a trillion dollars a year."
Stover thinks the agriculture community could eventually funnel health care costs back into production as a type of preventative health care.
Stover suggests, "To take all those costs now that [are] driving health care costs, that big pharma is enjoying, and push those back onto the farm through developing quality food that creates healthy environments and healthy people."
That takes work and innovation. He thinks that the Texas A&M System is well on the way to solving the problems of the present and future.
"With new irrigation systems that we're creating to conserve water tables, by developing plants that require less water and fertilizer, that give higher quality produce to our advance greenhouses, that bring together robotic sensors, that help accelerate our plant breeding programs, that help meet the expectations of our producers," Stover furthered.
These are lofty goals. Courville and Stover agree that it starts with education, and convincing the next generation that farming means opportunity for years to come.
In the meantime, Art will be in Grimes County, working all 366 days in 2020, if he can help it.
"How many more years? I could be out next year, maybe 2. I don't know. Depends on my health," Courville said. "I just take it one day at a time."
One day at a time, each spent trying to link health, well being, and education back to the fields where it all starts.
"That is our challenge," Stover said. "To make ag relevant to every Texan through our education, research, and through our extensions. It's critical to our economy and the state of Texas moving forward."