Trusting the unexpected: Graduate earns agricultural economics degree

Published By: Latasha Ford May 12, 2023

Fort Valley State University student Brice Paster will graduate on May 13 with a job working for BASF Agricultural Solutions. Photo by Ervin Williams.

Understanding people is an empathic skill that Brice Paster embraces to build others up as a student and young man on the cusp of stepping into a new phase of his life.

The 24-year-old Peach County High School graduate never imagined his path would be diverted after his father suffered a health incident. This caused him to return home to Macon, Georgia, to help his mother. Paster, the elder brother, attended a junior college for two years before he decided to enroll at his mother’s alma mater, Fort Valley State University, in 2020. This allowed his younger brother to remain at Alabama State University to complete his degree.

With no agriculture background but a business mindset, Paster landed in the College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology (CAFST), majoring in agricultural economics. When asked why agriculture, he immediately responded, “Dr. (Mohammed) Ibrahim.” Ibrahim serves as the associate dean for academics in the CAFST.

“I appreciate him so much. He is the definition of someone who truly cares and is passionate about what he does,” Paster said. “He analyzes his students to figure out their best skills.”

The FVSU 1890 scholar wanted to pursue a degree that is dynamic and lined up with his business skills.

“I had never seen a farm,” he chuckled, noting Ibrahim suggested that he major in agricultural economics.

“He worded it in a way that resonated with me. Anyone can sell you a dream, but it is about the trust factor. I felt he was genuine,” Paster said. “He explained the benefits and pathways. It piqued my interest because I am all about learning new things.”

He said this leap of faith led to him further stepping out of his comfort zone to take advantage of multiple opportunities. This includes introducing FVSU President Dr. Paul Jones at the 2022 Association of Research Directors Symposium as senator of the Student Government Association (SGA).

In addition to SGA, Paster is a member of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences, and Agriculture Future of America (AFA). These student experiences evolved into professional development opportunities.

Paster said the highlight of his career was interning virtually for the large nonprofit World Wildlife Fund for a year and a half. He worked in a new area called regenerative agriculture to help find solutions to restore natural resources. He is most proud of working with the organization’s Northern Great Plains team to support the thriving livelihood of Indigenous communities in Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota.

“I met with the tribe leaders in the Northern Great Plains area,” he said. “I had to take metrics from those areas and base them around food access and food security for their community.”

Leaning into his empathic skills and personal upbringing, Paster learned different perspectives and how the Indigenous community grows their food naturally.

“Before I could get to the solution, I had to understand their background and history,” he expressed. “They do not care about money. That is not what drives them. They are closely driven together as a family and do things in unison. They want to maneuver in their way. However, they don’t have the resources like in the past because their land was taken from them.”

As a result of this project, the company plans to build major hubs for the Indigenous communities to source bison and other protein meats. This work inspired the young scholar.

“As a Black man, we have our own challenges in our community. It helped me understand the things they have had to endure as well,” Paster said. “I could hear the passion when speaking with the tribe leaders. There is a proper way to communicate and educate, rather than go in there and demand. It felt like I had an impact on helping them thrive.”

Paster says he has grown after this experience, where he was provided a space to be himself. His parents have always taught him not to be one-dimensional and to not settle.

“My family is my biggest motivation with everything I do in my life,” he said.

Paster is shown with BASF representatives at the 2023 Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences Conference.

Paster smiled describing his calm and loving mother and hard-working father, who taught him to never make excuses. His parents are seeing the fruit of their labor as Paster and his brother embark on their careers after graduating college.

Paster will earn his bachelor’s degree on May 13 and then begin his new career in July, working in the financing department at BASF Agricultural Solutions in North Carolina. He recalls getting the job offer in 2022 after meeting representatives at the AFA Conference.

“It is a blessing. Everything is working out how it is meant to be,” he said.

His advice to other students is: “Don’t be so quick to neglect an idea that is outside your perspective. Always say yes to opportunities that will benefit you.” He learned this from his father, who taught him to take advantage of today.

“I feel like in whatever room I step into, I deserve to be there,” Paster declared. “My motivation is always to prove that.”