If 100 college students were asked if they’d like to have a career in agriculture, it’s likely that only a select few would say “yes.” However, recent advances in technology have broadened the horizon for agricultural jobs, and more students are now looking to enter this “growing” industry.
According to local Michigan news affiliate WILX, Michigan State University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is providing hundreds of students with the opportunity to follow their dreams of becoming a dietitian, pesticide applicator, or any other farm-related job imaginable.
While most people would not assume that dietitians require a deep understanding of agriculture, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Deborah Walker, a sophomore at MSU who is studying to become a dietitian, decided to enter the prestigious agriculture program because “food management kind of goes back to what’s being grown.”
Kelly Millenbah, Associate Dean and Director of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at MSU, agrees with her student. She believes that more college freshmen would show an interest in the program if they knew the wide array of job opportunities that can come from an education in farming.
“Yes it starts in the field,” said Millenbah. “That’s an important part of what we do, but it concludes [with] things like food scientists and dietitians and foresters. [Students] perceive, when you use the words food and agriculture, hard dirty work and that’s a part of it.”
Another reason that many students choose not to pursue a career in agriculture is the common misconception that agriculture has become obsolete. While employment of farmers and other agricultural managers is projected to decline 2% in the next decade, this does not affect ancillary careers such as dietitian or forester, which are still in high demand.
“We will need to feed 9 billion people by the year 2050,” Millenbah added. “What could be more important than having to think about how will we ensure that we have enough food?”
As local Iowa news affiliate WQAD reported, the recent Agriculture Summit in Donahue, IA, also explored the common misconceptions that people may have about farming. John Heinrich, vice president of the Iowa Farm Bureau, believes that agriculture is one of the best industries to enter in 2016.
“Technology, biology, there’s a lot of different areas. It’s an exciting venue to be in right now, agriculture,” said Heinrich.
In fact, Heinrich said that there is currently a dearth of qualified professionals with experience in new farming techniques that utilize technology. Therefore, students graduating from programs like the one at MSU will have no trouble finding a job after their education is finished.
“It’s definitely making it more challenging to get the trained employees that a lot of companies need and even on the farms when you think of agriculture itself and production agriculture has to do now,” Heinrich added.
There may not be a cascade of college freshmen rushing to sign up for agriculture classes, but perhaps there should be considering what these farming experts have said about the industry’s future.