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Defining Agriculture Careers
April 11, 2014
Ashley Collins, Education & Marketing Manager -

Well Yahoo is at it again; their education department released this week another article attacking the agricultural industry.  The title of the article,‘5 Careers That Are In Crisis’ and you guessed it, the number one career facing extinction, according to the article is ‘Farmer, Rancher and other Agricultural Manager.’  As I shared with a friend of mine, who also works in the agricultural industry, my sheer aggravation with the fact that yet another article had been published on this topic by the same ‘yahoos’ who put out the last, she exclaimed, ‘where are they getting their information?’  I then sadly shared that the author is actually using accurate data to make their point that traditional farmer and rancher jobs would decline by 19% between 2012 and 2022.  Very few people in the agricultural industry would argue that the small mom and pop ‘farmer’ career isn’t declining, but does that one career define our entire industry? 


According to the Department of Labor, it does.  The Department of Labor defines agriculture solely as on farm work.  Not taking into account the allied careers that support the work of the farmer.  This includes the scientist who works inside not only a typical laboratory with microscopes and beakers, but also in a field laboratory with soil, water and farm equipment, to create the seed of tomorrow.  The seed that will help the farmer produce three times the crop that he’s producing today, with fewer resources.  The career of agricultural sales, the career that involves visiting the farmer to supply him or her with the inputs and technology that will help their livestock produce a higher quality, better tasting protein at a safe and efficient rate.  The career of human resources and recruiting, the career of convincing people that agriculture is not just the farmer; agriculture includes hundreds of careers that support the farmer and those careers are rewarding, lucrative careers that need more people pursing them!  This list could go on and on defining careers in information technology, marketing, education and government, and still only scratch the surface.  But they all have one thing in a common-- they all revolve around the industry of agriculture!


In 2013,, the leading online job board for the agriculture, food, natural resources and biotechnology industry had 12,500 more jobs posted than in the year before, equating to more than 56,000 openings in one year alone, 4,600 openings each month!  Over the last five years the site has experienced an average annual growth of 21% in the number of career opportunities posted.  The average starting salary for a new graduate with a four year degree in agriculture is $41,000.  Nearly 132,000 applications were processed through the site in a year.  There was an 82% increase in the number of internship opportunities advertised.  That does not sound like a career field in crisis to me.


Another reason cited in the article that careers within agriculture are declining is that “Working on a farm - now owned by corporations instead of Mom and Pop - simply doesn't have the appeal it once had in this country.”   Yes, more farm operations are owned or tied to corporate operations than they were 20 years ago, but with the job of feeding, clothing and providing for the 2.5 billion more people that will be on our planet by 2050, farms must get larger and have the regulatory, technical, and scientific support of larger corporations.  For anyone who does not think the farm of today is as appealing as it once was, I would encourage them to spend a day on today’s modern high tech farm, then jump in their time machine and visit the farm of yesteryear, then let me know which one they would rather live on or have their food come from.    


So if you are reading this today, I challenge you to do two things.  The first is share this information; share it with people who do not know about all the careers that are involved in agriculture.  Those are the people who, if we don’t influence their thinking, will be influenced by the data that inaccurately paints a negative portrayal of our industry.  Secondly, if you work in agriculture, talk about your career, expose your family and friends to what you do and how it relates back to the production of food, fuel and fiber our planet survives on.  The agricultural industry is an exciting and growing industry to be part of, we know that because we read about and experience the scientific advancements that happen daily to make our jobs more efficient, but the general public does not.  While there are thousands of career opportunities available in our industry, graduates trained to fill those jobs only make up about 1% of the total enrolment in post-secondary education-- that is our crisis, that we need more people!  Don’t let a misrepresented definition define our industry.   If you are looking for support that there are thousands of career opportunities available in agriculture, visit and take a look!


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