Contrary to popular beliefs, urbanization has increased, rather than diminished, the importance of role of agriculture in society. Population growth, combined with increasing concerns on food safety and nutrition has not only driven the demand but also the quality of agricultural products.
In addition, this demand spans beyond the domestic borders. In fact, US exported approximately $141.3 billion worth of agricultural products in 2012.1 Thus, the American agriculture industry not only affects the US, but also the global economy.
As a result of this rising demand, there is a greater need for professionals in the agricultural industry. However, the nature of the industry has evolved in recent years primarily because of urbanization. Family farms are gradually phased out and are replaced by larger professional farm operations. Farming is no longer seen as a way of life, but a profession in the agribusiness sector.
Moreover, these industry changes, combined with advances in technology, require farmers to have a technical as well as a management based education as opposed to the traditional informal training passed on from older generations.
Agricultural operations today could not be more different than the traditional stereotypes of working on a farm or a ranch. Agricultural science comprises of research on methods of crop growing and harvesting as well as breeding and the humane treatment of livestock. Furthermore, sustainability and corporate social responsibility is central to the success of this industry as consumers are better informed and are inquisitive on the source and the processing methods of their food from farm to table.
As a result of these industry changes and the growing demand for agricultural products, the outlook for the US agricultural sector is very positive. Students who are interested in food science and environmental sustainability and agribusiness should consider pursuing an education and career in the agriculture sector.
The agricultural sector is vast, spanning across various areas of specialization. From farm management to ranching and animal science to horticulture and viticulture to agricultural economics, students have many options in this industry, depending on their interests and skills.
Education requirements vary in the agricultural sector, depending on the type of job students are pursuing. If they are more hands-on in nature and prefer working in the farm or a ranch, they may want to pursue an apprenticeship program. Farmers and ranchers on the day-to-day operations at the facility will mentor students in these programs.
On the other hand, if students are interested in the more technical aspects of agriculture or research, they may choose to enroll in a two-year or four-year college program. Following the completion of these programs, students may work for on a farm (or ranch or vineyard) or a food processing company or farm equipment manufacturer.
Agriculture is perhaps one of the oldest, most important industries throughout history. It is a major source of life for humans and animals. As long as society depends on crops and animals for their livelihood, the agricultural industry will continue to grow. From hands-on operations management to technology and environmental sustainability, this is one industry which will make a huge contribution to society. To learn more about careers in agriculture, please visit your school counselor or visit state government websites on apprenticeships or contact the schools which offer an agricultural science program.
1. United States Congress. Joint Economic Committee. The Economic Contribution of America’s Farmers and the Importance of Agricultural Exports. September 2013. http://www.jec.senate.gov/public/?a=Files.Serve&File_id=266a0bf3-5142-4545-b806-ef9fd78b9c2f