Should We, in Good Faith, Encourage Young People to Pursue Careers in Agriculture?
Monday, July 2nd, 2012
“Son, you are getting an education and getting off this farm!” Those words still ring in my ears as I recall my youth working on our family farm. Some of my family settled as early as 1824 on land that became Marshall Brothers Farm. I followed my father’s direction and earned degrees from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, University of Georgia and University of Florida. After 30 years as a college educator in agriculture, I still experience parents urging their kids to pursue a career outside of agriculture. Thus, should we encourage young people to pursue a career in agriculture? Simply – YES!
The most compelling reason is that career opportunities are plentiful if graduates are willing to pursue their career path without geographic limitation. One of the first questions that I ask students is “Do you plan to follow your career path or do you plan to live in a given location and find a way to make a living?” I am not suggesting that moving back to your home town is “wrong”, but I am assuring you that career opportunities will be very limited in any given location. Purdue University and USDA publish a five-year report called Employment Opportunities for College Graduates in Food, Renewable Energy, and the Environment.
The 2010-2015 report predicts a need by 2015 for graduates in many agricultural applications of science and business. The reported employment opportunities fall into one of four categories; Management and Business (47%), Science and Engineering (27%), Agricultural and Forestry Production (15%), as well as Education, Communication, and Governmental Services (11%).
Our placement experience at ABAC during the last year has been outstanding. Agriculture and Agribusinesses have been very active employers during this time. The ABAC Career Connections (agriculture career fair) has drawn over forty employers, and many others contact us directly to set-up interviews with our students. Other institutions have also been successful in connecting outstanding young graduates with employers.
Another important reason for encouraging young people to pursue a career in agriculture is that we need to encourage people to pursue their passion. We need the excited, young agriculture advocate to be successful as a business owner or employee. Our society benefits by people being successful, thus being self sufficient and sustainable.
Farming and ranching requires its participants to be well-educated and experienced; good business managers; good communicators within and outside of agriculture; problem solvers and critical thinkers. Do not be hesitant to encourage young people to pursue a career in agriculture. The industry needs the best; those who are smart, have a great work ethic, and love the lifestyle. We should be working with school systems to better prepare young people to understand the career opportunities in agriculture, and the associated educational requirements, prerequisite experience, lifestyle, and financial possibilities.
The internet has become a very effective conduit for career placement discovery. Not only do most agribusinesses have web sites that include posted positions, but there are many industry-specific career exploration/career development sites for agriculture; AgCareers.com, Ag1Source, Hansen Agri-Placement and many more that are specific to certain commodities.
In conclusion, please encourage our best young people with a love for agriculture to network, explore and become well-informed about the career opportunities in our industry. Encourage, facilitate and participate in “clearing the path” for the future leaders of our industry. In doing so we will create many successful professionals, and also educate many future voters who will support the efforts of those who select a life in agriculture.