Agricultural degrees aren’t just for farmers

It’s school time. Maybe you are like me and have a child headed off to college this week. As parents, we try to help our kids decide their career paths. As a farmer’s daughter and someone whose career is dependent on agriculture, I’ve encouraged my daughters to pursue agriculture-related careers.

I remember being in a college scholarship interview almost 30 years ago. One of the questions I was asked was with all the background I had with the dairy cattle industry, why didn’t I pursue a degree in dairy science? My response was that I believed although I would probably become a farm owner one day, there were great opportunities to support agriculture through my chosen major. Most of us would agree that agriculture is important and is needed. Agriculture provides almost everything we eat, use and wear on a daily basis, and is increasingly contributing to fuel and other bio-products.

A few generations ago, most Americans were directly involved in or had relatives or friends involved in agricultural-related endeavors. Today, that is not the case. Many people think of farmers when they think of an agricultural degree. There are many great agricultural-related colleges that help farmers farm and ranch all over the country, but a very small percentage of the American population is involved in traditional farming and ranching.

There are about 22 million people who work in agriculturally related fields. These same colleges offer more than 200 degrees that provide rewarding and challenging careers in supportive industries that help farmers farm. Agricultural careers can be divided into various categories. Agribusiness management focuses on the managerial functions performed by organizations throughout the food system. Sample job titles: commodity trader, agricultural production specialist, purchasing manager, farm owner and manager and wholesale/retail buyer.

Agricultural and natural resources communications focuses on careers in journalism, public relations and advertising. Sample job titles: marketing communications manager, district sales representative, advertising manager, reporter, editor and account manager.

Agriscience provides a foundation for careers in agricultural and natural resource industries. Career titles include agriscience educator, extension educator, farmer and human resource director.

Resource development and management focuses on policy analysis, planning, evaluation, budgeting, and program management. Sample job titles include environmental analyst or planner, solid waste coordinator and water resources specialist.

Horticulture focuses on the science and art concerned with culture, marketing and utilization of high value, intensively cultivated fruits, flowers, vegetables and ornamental plants. Job titles include retail manager, landscape designer, nursery grower and entrepreneur.

Food safety is a category that focuses on the development of new foods, investigation of new production and processing methods, and researching ways to ensure a safe, nutritious and economical food supply. Sample job titles include food technician or chemist, laboratory technician and quality control manager.

Sorry for all the lists! There are other agricultural careers that I could have added. As someone who is involved in agriculture, it has been a great reminder of the 22 million people who support America’s farmers every day by doing their job. Give agricultural degrees a second look.

Gary and I have three daughters and so far we have a teacher and a registered nurse. As our youngest heads off to college, we are excited to see what she will do. She hopes to use her passion for writing to support and promote agriculture. We are excited to see her succeed.

Written by Mary Smallsreed, a member of Trumbull County Farm Bureau, who grew up on a family dairy farm in northeast Ohio.