Spring is the time of year when high school seniors start counting down their remaining days at home, and parents ponder whether to turn their bedroom into a gym, storage closet or playroom for the family dogs. In my case, the sting of a senior prank gone bad was soon replaced by the uncertainty of plans for the coming fall. A career in agriculture was planned but specifics were as scarce as two forks at my place setting for dinner.
The importance of agriculture in the future cannot be overstated. The numbers speak for themselves; we have to figure out a way to feed three billion more people in roughly 30 years. Ninety-six percent of the world’s current population of 7.4 billion lives outside the U.S. We are a nation of plenty where the average grocery store has more than 42,000 items. Yet, there are a reported 842 million undernourished people in the world, and places still exist where pest management is nothing more than squishing an insect between fingers.
So if agriculture is your passion, how about a job? Millennials may never see social security but the outlook for a job is encouraging. According to a USDA study covering the 2015-2020 period, “An average of 35,400 new U.S. graduates with expertise in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, or the environment are expected to fill 61% of the expected 57,900 average annual openings.” The trick will be narrowing down opportunities—who would have thought we would be managing fields with drones, designing food products to fight disease or powering our cars with fuel derived from corn and soybeans?
This is a great time to be involved in agriculture! Twenty years ago Johnny Cash struck a chord with his hit song “I’ve Been Everywhere Man.” I never figured out how he could rattle off the names of 91 places from Kalamazoo to Kansas City in less than four minutes. But the song got me thinking about an updated version focused on agriculture, “I Could Do Anything Man.” It might go something like this, “I could do anything man… drone technology, hydrology, genetics, robotics, nanotechnology, welding, plumbing, electrician, mechanic, farmer, animal scientist…” the list would be longer than ever.
Timing is everything. High-speed connectivity now makes it possible to live and work about anywhere. Just think about rural communities revitalized by those looking for the best of both worlds, gainful employment and a slower pace. The next few years will make it clear that agriculture has never been just about farming but more so a growing and diverse global system.
A review of recent headlines reinforces the point. Trade agreements, food safety, renewable fuels, nutrition programs and water quality all have an agriculture component. What better way to make a difference in the world than a career somewhere in the growing sphere of agriculture?