Lending a voice
Evan Callicoat (Agribusiness and Applied Economics ’21) did not originally foresee a career in public policy when he enrolled as a freshman in 2017. But for someone who is so clearly passionate about lending a voice to those in agricultural and rural communities who sometimes feel unheard, it’s hard to imagine him doing anything else.
Callicoat was recently named the director of state policy for Ohio Farm Bureau. In this role he represents the interests of Farm Bureau members with the Ohio General Assembly and throughout state government.
For Callicoat the work is personal. He was raised on a 700-acre farm in Clark County and now advocates for the same farmers and community members he grew up with.
Callicoat had prior experience working with legislators in his role as a state officer for Future Farmers of America (FFA), but it wasn’t until he accepted an internship in public policy with the Ohio Corn & Wheatgrowers Association his sophomore year – one of three internships he completed while at The Ohio State University – that he fully realized his passion for policy.
“From then on, that’s been my path,” Callicoat said. “I found a real passion for agricultural policy and advocating for people who often don’t think their voices are heard.”
Callicoat also credits the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics (AEDE) with preparing him to explore a broad range of career possibilities. The wide selection of courses offered in the AAE major allowed him to gain the skills and knowledge that would help him in his future career.
“Being able to choose the path I wanted within AEDE made all the difference and allowed me to get a lot more out of my degree,” he said. “They [faculty and advisors] did everything to set me up for what I wanted to do.”
Callicoat also connected with AEDE alumni and others working in the agriculture sector for advice on how to select courses that would align with to his career goals.
“There’s a lot of choices that you have, and that made all the difference,” he said.
His advice to current students?
“Try something different. Go out of your comfort zone. If you just go back to what you know or back to your family farm every summer, you’re kind of constricted. I did the Alpha Zeta Partner’s trip to Brazil. I lived in another country for two months, so that was definitely out of my comfort zone.”
He continued, “New experiences will help you figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life. You might hate some of them. I definitely had jobs or internships that I did not like, but they taught me what I wanted to do, and I think that made all the difference.”
As Callicoat settles into his new role with Ohio Farm Bureau, he is looking forward to tracking the implementation of House Bill 2 that was passed last year. The bill provides infrastructure funding to expand faster internet access to underserved rural communities, and was an Ohio Farm Bureau priority issue.
Also on his radar is the upcoming “Ag Day at the Capital,” on Feb. 16, which is an opportunity for Ohio Farm Bureau members to discuss issues that impact them directly with state legislators. Callicoat is hopeful to also connect with AEDE alumni and families who are Ohio Farm Bureau members.
For many people, feeling like they are making a meaningful impact in their career can sometimes take years, but not for Callicoat, who has clearly found his calling early on.
“I can’t describe the feeling I get when I am part of getting a policy implemented that helps farmers,” he said. “I have just latched onto that – lifting up the voices of people.”