Plant Science Student Works to Engage and Educate the Public About Local Farming
Growing up on a small farm in Rhode Island, Matthew Crudale always enjoyed the outdoors living on the farm, but he never thought of farming as a career. Like most children, his dream job constantly changed, varying from baseball player to teacher to musician. But in the 10th grade, Crudale realized what had been his true passion all along, when he got his first paid job working on a local farm.
“It’s all about personal satisfaction,” explained Crudale. “I love being outdoors and I love the intensity of labor.”
Crudale’s love for agriculture and farming led him to the University of Rhode Island’s Department of Plant Science and Entomology (PSE) in the College of the Environment and Life Sciences. As a junior, Crudale continues to excel in class as he works towards his dream of starting and operating his own farm in order to break down barriers between society and farming.
Being a proponent of agricultural education and agritourism, Crudale hopes to be an agricultural entrepreneur so he can bring visitors onto the farm to rectify misconceptions people may have about farms today.
“I would like to bring people onto the farm, to show society that farmers aren’t just people with hoes and tractors hanging out with plants all day,” Crudale stated. “It has evolved into a much more advanced industry. There’s lots of science and technology that is being used on farms today that make it possible for us to do things that were not possible many years ago. I want to show people what a modern farmer/agriculturalist really does.”
In addition to his course work, Crudale has worked many jobs, including URI’s Peckham and Agronomy Farm, and runs his own repair company where he fixes small engines like lawn mowers, and tractors for friends and family. He also works at South County Farms and The Farmer’s Daughter, a local nursery where he has already been able to apply knowledge of more than 200 plants gained from his Landscape Plant Identification courses.
“People ask me about a plant, and it is cool to be so comfortable and confident when helping customers to sell them what they want, and provide advice on other things they may like,” Crudale explained.
While juggling schoolwork and several part-time jobs, Crudale finds time to get involved in various clubs, such as the Agriculture Club and the Horticulture Club. Crudale also participates in the annual National Collegiate Landscape Competition where he joins hundreds of students to compete in landscape and plant science activities, while having the opportunity to speak with industry leaders and network about internships and jobs.
“It is a great way to test your skills with what we learn in class,” said Crudale.
As Crudale prepares for a career as an agricultural entrepreneur, he plans to use sustainable methods and ensure soil health and fertility as well as become a licensed mechanic to be able to run all aspects of the farm.
“I think agriculture is as much about plants as it is the soil that they are grown in,” Crudale explains. “This means carefully planning fertilizer application, how much tillage is done, as well as crop rotation amongst other things.”
On his farm, Crudale looks forward to providing “the whole package” to his customers: both meat and vegetables. “I want it to be a great experience for the customer so they won’t have to go anywhere else to get food,” he added.